Bill to make HOV lanes more available passes Assembly

CORONA – A bill seeking to make carpool lanes in Riverside County available to all commuters during off-peak hours is on its way to the state Senate.

Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes’ AB 91 was overwhelmingly approved by the Assembly on Wednesday.

The legislation would convert high-occupancy vehicle lanes countywide to part-time status, meaning that the lanes would be available to motorists driving solo anytime other than during peak travel periods, such as between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays.

“Nothing affects the quality of life of the residents of the Inland Empire more than freeway traffic,” said Cervantes, D-Corona. “Carpool lanes are an important tool to reduce traffic and making our air cleaner. But enforcing them after rush hour, which often leaves carpool lanes empty during late-night traffic, is inefficient.”

For the most part, carpool lane access on the 91 freeway and the 60 freeway is enforced 24 hours a day. Vehicles occupied by two or more people are permitted to use the lanes, though a section of the 60 between the Interstate 215 interchange and Redlands Boulevard does allow off- peak usage on weekdays.

AB 91 would replicate the part-time HOV regulations in place in Northern California, according an Assembly Transportation Committee analysis of the bill.

“AB 91 is a necessary measure to fulfill the intended purpose of carpool lanes, while making their operation more flexible to prevent late-night traffic jams,” Cervantes said.

Her bill would not affect toll lanes, which would remain available only to motorists who have paid to use them.

AB 91 would provide that if Caltrans, the Riverside County Transportation Commission or the Southern California Association of Governments determines that federal funding for infrastructure projects or freeway maintenance is jeopardized by the change, the HOV lanes could go back to 24-hour status.

Additionally, any findings by Caltrans that the conversion to part-time status has had an “adverse impact on safety, traffic conditions or the environment” would serve as justification for the agency to revert any carpool lane to 24-hour operation after May 1, 2019, according to the legislation.

Changing signage along the freeways to alert motorists to carpool lane availability would cost about $400,000, according to the Assembly Transportation Committee.

If approved and signed into law by the governor, the bill would take effect on July 1, 2018.

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