24/7 HOV lanes perplex reader

The in basket: Richard Geasland writes, “My question is about the diamond lanes on Highway 16 at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, northbound and southbound.  I have not seen any signs on that stretch denoting times that the diamond lanes are in force. Am I to assume that they are in force 24/7? Other diamond lanes around this area have signs that are around normal commute times.”

The out basket: I’m not sure where Richard has seen diamond (HOV) lanes in the past, but most of the ones I’ve encountered, here and elsewhere  (but not those in Kitsap County) are in effect at all hours of all days.

The HOV lanes on Highway 305 in Poulsbo were introduced with specific hours they were  in effect, and they remain that way. The single HOV lane on Highway 304 coming out of Bremerton was effective 24/7 when built. But it became apparent that congestion outside of the weekday afternoon commute was non-existent and the state made it a general purpose lane except for 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday a year or so ago.

Claudia Bingham-Baker of the Olympic Region public affairs office says, “The 24/7 designation on HOV lanes is still the norm, however on the east side of Lake Washington in King County, several freeways, including I-90, SR 167 and I-405, have variable HOV hours.  All I-5 HOV lanes are 24/7, and at the moment so are all SR 16 HOV lanes.”

Tolls for use of the HOV lanes account for the variable hours on some of the highways she cited.

“Traffic engineers look at a variety of elements when determining whether to relax the restriction, and once the projects in the Tacoma/Pierce County HOV Program build HOV lanes through Tacoma they’ll take another look,” she said.

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