A few weeks ago, I noticed that the onramp to I-5 southbound from 45th Street had undergone some changes with regard to the HOV lane (the rightmost of the two lanes on the ramp). Some readers have noticed it, too.
Previously, HOV traffic was allowed to enter the freeway without stopping. During busy times, the left (non-HOV) lane was metered forcing traffic there to wait for a green signal from the light at the left of the lane.
Now, two lights hang from an overhead beam. During busy times, both lanes are metered meaning that HOV and non-HOV traffic must wait for their respective green signal before entering I-5. Each lane appears to get the same number of greens in a given interval of time; there are no “extra cycles” for the HOV folks. So things appear to have gotten a little tougher for car poolers.
I asked WSDOT what was behind the change, and heard back (ever so promptly, I might add!) from Lisa Van Cise of WSDOT Communications:
The reason behind the change is two-fold:
Safety improvements – By metering both the general purpose and HOV lanes of traffic, the merging vehicles become more evenly spaced, providing an easier and safer merge for highway and merging traffic.
Efficiently operating the freeway – The low cost improvement also reduces traffic backups. Prior to the change, traffic would back up on the ramp, city streets and I-5 as drivers jockeyed for position, creating backups and secondary backups.
And she added this:
The intent of HOV lanes is to make our highway system run more efficiently, however this ramp was one with a high number of HOV violators, essentially negating the benefit of a bypass lane.
So, those of you that were being bad have spoiled it for the rest of us. I must admit, though, that the race to get to the standstill freeway lanes between the HOV and non-HOV traffic under the previous arrangement could create some tense moments. Now, those are just fond memories.