HOT lanes opened on I-45 South and U.S. 59 South a few months ago. Now those lanes are being extended north along one of the area's most congested freeways. The I-45 North HOT lane starts near downtown. People driving by themselves can pay a toll to use the HOV lanes to get to major destinations.
METRO CEO George Greanias:
"Our Seton Lake Park and Ride, our Spring Park and Ride, our Shepherd and Kuykendahl Park and Rides, takes you out to The Woodlands, Beltway 8, Loop 610, takes you out to Bush Intercontinental, to Greenspoint, and if you're coming inbound, to U-of-H. So it gives you access to an awful lot of key destinations along that corridor."
Greanias says METRO created the HOT lanes to get better use out of what he calls an underutilized asset.
"We've put a lot of money, with the cooperation of the federal government, into the creation of our HOV lanes. We want to make sure they're used as much as possible, getting a good return for our investment. And what this program allows us to do is get more use out of them at times when they otherwise might not be used to capacity. At the same time, we're giving people the opportunity to get a little faster trip."
The HOT lanes will be open inbound from 5:00 to 7:00 a.m., and again from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. Single drivers can use the lanes outbound from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., and from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Tolls are on a fixed schedule. They range from $2.50 to $5.00 dollars, depending on the time. The HOT lanes are only open on weekdays but Greanias says they are considering weekend hours.
"For example, the 45 South corridor, on the weekend going down to Galveston on Friday and coming back up north on Sunday, might be very attractive to a lot of people who've found themselves stuck in traffic on 45 on the weekends."
Along with getting more use out of the HOV lanes, Greanias says another goal of the HOT lanes is to cut down on freeway backups. They hope to get about 1,500 vehicles off the 45 North main lanes during peak periods.
"On the I-45 South corridor and the I-59 South corridor, we're seeing a little under a thousand vehicles a day are using those corridors as single-occupancy vehicles. So we're taking a little under a thousand vehicles off I-45 South, about a thousand vehicles off 59 South every day though this program."
A formal opening for the I-45 North HOT lanes will be held on Monday. Greanias says METRO plans to open HOT lanes on U.S. 59 North and U.S. 290 by early next year.