Caltrans recently announced plans to add new carpool lanes in and around the San Fernando Valley in an effort to address and control heavy traffic congestion in the area.
The construction project will consist of three carpool lane additions in the San Fernando Valley.
The first leg of construction is a $41.6 million project that will add a carpool lane stretching 6.2 miles in both directions on Interstate Highway 5 between the 118 Freeway and the 14 Freeway, according to Jeanne Bonfilio, spokesperson for Caltrans. The first project is scheduled for completion sometime between spring and summer 2007.
The second leg of the project will install carpool lanes on I-5 between the 118 Freeway and the 170 Freeway. The final construction project will install new carpool lanes on I-5 between the 170 Freeway and California 134.
“The majority of the work will be done overnight,” Bonfilio said. “However, there will be some lane closures throughout the day during off-peak hours.”
Bonfilio said Caltrans is working closely with the California Highway Patrol to ensure a high level of public safety.
“(Carpool lanes don’t) just move cars,” Bonfilio said. “(They) move people.”
According to Bonfilio, the lane additions will not only benefit carpoolers, but also commuters driving in regular, or “mixed flow,” lanes because the new lanes will diminish the number of cars driving in those lanes as well.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sent his revised budget to the California Legislature May 13. The budget included $678 million earmarked for the Transportation Congestion Relief Program and promises new funding for California roadways that have seen annual transportation budgets reduced in recent years.
CSUN senior Monica Kostanyan said she believes the carpool lane will reduce the time she has to spend in traffic.
“I drive alone, but if they build a carpool lane, I would bring a friend or my brother with me to make use of it,” Kostanyan said.
Kostanyan lives in Burbank, and she said it takes her 30 minutes to get to CSUN in the morning.
Sona Hakhpandyan, a senior at CSUN, is a resident of North Hollywood who said she believes the carpool lanes would definitely help relieve traffic congestion.
“With traffic, it’s sometimes a 45 minute drive to school,” said Hakhpandyan.
According to Bonfilio, some carpool lanes, which are also known as High Occupancy Vehicle lanes, hold almost half of the cars on a given freeway.
HOV lanes are limited to cars that carry a minimum of two people, and in some areas of the state, the minimum is three people. HOV policy states that violators who are caught driving alone are subject to fines up to $271.
According to the official Caltrans website, the CHP cited more than 18,000 people for this violation in 1996.
Bonfilio added that in addition to improving mobility, the new carpool lanes will “improve gridlock, alleviate congestion and improve air quality” by reducing the number of cars on the road.
“The carpool lane will save approximately one minute per mile,” Bonfilio said.
“So, if a person drives 20 miles, it could potentially save (that person) 20 minutes, which is a great (amount) of time,” she said.