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HOV lane performance in Puget Sound region only getting worse

(File, MyNorthwest)

HOV lane performance is far from stellar, according to a report from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

WSDOT promises fix to Renton to Bellevue mess

The report says traffic in our region’s HOV lanes is up by more than 22 percent. Long stretches of HOV lanes are no longer meeting the standard of drivers traveling at 45 miles per hour, 90 percent of the time.

Only two of the 12 HOV “peak-direction corridors” in the region met the reliability standards in 2016, according to a state report. That included the commutes on I-90 between Issaquah and Seattle. Three corridors met the standard in 2014.

The Washington Department of Transportation is working on recommendations for the Senate Transportation Committee.

The fix could come in the form of opening more shoulder driving like the state did on I-405 through Bothell, and bigger fines for HOV violators.

Robin Mayhew, the director of the state’s Management and Mobility Division of WSDOT, told the committee Monday afternoon that hard shoulder driving is a “near-term solution that we’re going to continue to look at as a region.”

In May, WSDOT was caught off guard by the success of shoulder driving on I-405 through Bothell. Travel times improved enough that the average toll for the express lane decreased. The average general purpose lane travel time between Bellevue and Lynnwood in the afternoons decreased by almost 20 minutes.

The state is working to implement peak-use shoulder driving for buses on I-5 between Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

Mayhew said the state is also toying with the idea of reducing lane width on freeways.

“We have twelve-foot widths and we can actually safely go to an eleven-foot width and add a buffer and that helps lanes do different speeds. So it helps preserve the mobility on the HOV system.”

The state may work with state patrol to try and increase enforcement of HOV lane violators as well.

Though the state is trying to find solutions to HOV performance now, they have not been meeting standards for more than a decade. Southbound I-5 between Everett and Seattle, for example, haven’t met the standard performance measure since before 2012.

The state and Puget Sound Regional Council will convene an I-5 working group to study future solutions.

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