Tag Archives: HOV lanes

Towed vehicles, HOV lanes and passengers

The in basket:  Don Geidel of Seabeck asks, “Are passenger vehicles towing travel trailers or boats allowed in the HOV/car pool lanes if two or more people are in the car?”

He hadn’t been able to get an answer, he said.

The out basket: I didn’t see any reason they wouldn’t be, but I checked with Trooper Russ Winger, my State Patrol contact here to be sure. I expanded on the inquiry by asking if it mattered whether the other people were in the towed vehicle, whether it’s even legal for a person to be in a towed vehicle, and whether the rules in that regard are different for pets.

The out basket: Russ replied, “A vehicle with two or more occupants towing a trailer can utilize the HOV lane as long as the combined gross vehicle weight of the two vehicles is less than 10,000 pounds and the vehicle can keep up with the flow of traffic and not impede the flow of traffic in  the lane.

“Persons cannot ride in a towed vehicle, such as a travel trailer or boat. There is no provision against pets riding in a towed trailer, except if the trailer was open to the outside. Then the animal would need to be restrained and secured by leash or container so the animal could not fall out of the vehicle. This is no different than pets in riding in the back of a truck.”

Then Russ did a little expanding of his own, by referencing the  change made just this year in the law on riding in a towed vehicle on a flat-bed tow truck.

People can now do that, when there isn’t room for them in the cab of the tow truck or they have some disability that keeps them from getting into the cab and if they have a means of communicating with the tow truck driver in an emergency. It doesn’t say so, but I imagine the car’s horn would qualify.

I think having a towed vehicle catch fire that isn’t noticed by the towing driver, giving the towed passengers no means of escape is the main rationale for the law in the first place.

The last time I dealt with a limitation based on the weight of a vehicle it was too obvious that I don’t have any real experience in that area, but I think a 10,000-pound combined limit would exclude a lot of fifth wheelers.


SOV drivers taking their chances on Highway 304


The in basket: Tom Marcucci of Allyn writes to say, “I drive the new Navy Yard Highway several times each week, usually carpooling. Last week I drove it alone and did not use the carpool lane, but noticed about every third car in the HOV lane (had) a single occupant and had some type of PSNS base sticker on it.  

“Do shipyard workers automatically get to use the HOV lane even when they are driving alone?” he asked.

The out basket: No, they are taking their chances that they won’t be noticed by a law enforcement officer and ticketed to a tune of $124.

“We have also noticed that there numerous SOVs using the HOV lane and have asked for enforcement from the State Patrol,” says Lynn Price,  who headed the project for the city of Bremerton. 

Trooper Krista Hedstrom. spokesman for the state patrol here, says, “Shipyard workers are not allowed a free pass. The troopers in this area are certainly aware of this problem. As time allows, depending on the volume of calls for service, they are working the area and this issue has been addressed.”



Where and when of Highway 304 changes are questioned


The in basket: Lena Swanson of Bremerton wants to know why the planners of the Highway 304 improvement with the HOV lane at the west end of Bremerton didn’t carry the inside two lanes over the bridge that crosses Highway 3, where only two lanes would be merging instead of three, as now.

And Glen Adrig of Bremerton and Bob Edwards of Manchester ask why that HOV lane is in effect 24 hours a day, while in Poulsbo, the new ones on Highway 305 are in effect only during the morning and evening rush periods.

“Everyone … who has ever spent time in Bremerton realizes that the only traffic backup on Highway 304 occurs when the shipyard releases workers on a typical … weekday afternoon,” Glen said..

“It seems like the only logical HOV restrictions should occur Monday thru Friday between about 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., which would allow early and late leaving shipyard workers to use the lane.”

Bob also cited shipyard workers required to come early or stay late who are unable to car pool as disadvantaged by the 24-hour enforcement.

The out basket: Lynn Price, with the Bremerton city engineer’s office, said “We did look into merging the lanes on the south side of the … interchange but (state highway officials) recommended against it due to a prior experience with a two-lane merge at that location. 

Steve Kim, state traffic engineer for the Olympic Region, elaborated. “We were concerned about the merge point being located on the structure over (Highway) 3. The structure is on a horizontal and vertical curve. We didn’t think it would be desirable in terms of driver’s expectancy as well as safety.”

As for the 24/7 HOV limitation, Steve said, “The time of day HOV operation is an on-going issue statewide.  (Our) current HOV policy so far is 24/7 with a few exceptions as an experiment. Highway 305 Time-of-Day HOV was designed with the TOD concept in mind from the beginning of the project and is supposed to be a two-year pilot project.  Other state routes such as Highway 167 HOT in Kent and I-90 HOV are the exceptions at this time. 

“I think we will eventually modify our policy to allow TOD HOV operations,” he said.  “I would rather see a statewide policy than implement it case by case. 

“Based on my observation, I think the general purpose section of Highway 304 was flowing freely during the off-peak so there is no incentive of having two general purpose lanes during that time period,” he added. 

New Highway 304 HOV lane pummeled



The in basket: Debra Buchholz and Dave Dahlke, both of Port Orchard, consider the new HOV lane coming out of Bremerton on Highway 304 a waste of money. 

“We now have an HOV lane, wow, for what, a whole mile, just to have more idiots try to hurry and merge at

the last minute,” wrote Debra.

“Who’s idea was this?” she asked. “I truly would love to know so I can

charge them when someone in my family gets hit by some impatient driver who says, ‘Yeah, I will use the HOV to pass all of the patient people trying to get

home from the shipyard during rush hour.’ 

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New Highway 305 HOV lanes not much used

The in basket: Nita Moore writes, “Everyone around here is very happy that the Highway 305 upgrade (in Poulsbo) is close to finished and usable. 
“The HOV lanes are only in effect at certain times of the day,” she said, “in the morning and 3 to 6 in the afternoon, which is the heavy traffic time and seems logical.  BUT….
“I had the misfortune the other day of  traveling ALONE west on 305 at around 4 p.m. The HOV lane was almost empty and buzzing right along, but the lone ranger lane was almost as backed up as it was before the widening.  (It was nice to know that most everyone was obeying the restriction.)  
“My grandson drives himself and his brother to North Kitsap High School and travels this every afternoon and says it is like this every day.  The solution, of course, is that everyone travels through downtown to avoid it, which, of course, is one to the things it was meant to alleviate. How now?”
The out basket: The OTHER solution, and the one HOV lanes everywhere are intended to promote, is to have a lot of those lone ranger drivers pair up or trio up and so forth, moving cars legally from the all-purpose lane to the HOV lane.
Nita’s grandson does it, though I imagine that has more to do with available cars or occupants’ ages than what lane they can use. But every time people who might have driven alone pair up, that’s one fewer car on the highway and two fewer in the all-purpose lane. If enough people do it, the lanes will achieve a closer balance and waits will be shorter in the all-purpose lane.
These are the first HOV lanes in Kitsap County and they may or may not achieve their purpose. They are considered a four-year test project, but that deadline has more to do with the unusual placement of the HOV lanes on the outside of the highway than it does with the general concept of HOV lanes and their benefits.
They are on the outside, as I’ve said before, to better serve bus riders. Lisa Murdock of the state highway’s Olympic Region calls them “urban arterial HOV lanes similar to those found on (Highway) 99 and at SeaTac.
“The HOV lanes are on the outside to accommodate transit/pedestrians.” she said. “If the lanes were on the left, bus stops would have to be in the median and you can only imagine the potential danger with pedestrians with that scenario.”

A new day in toll collecting Saturday

The in basket: Saturday is the day that highway tolls in our state take the next big leap forward, when congestion-pricing tolls offer single-occupant vehicles access to the HOV lanes between Renton and Auburn on Highway 167.
Between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. seven days a week, a car with the same transponder that works to pay one’s toll to cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge will let a driver alone in his car pay to use the HOV lanes, called HOT lanes in this case. The price will range from 50 cents to $9, depending on how badly the highway is congested. The Web site suggests the typical rush hour price will be around $5. Signs along the freeway will announce the toll at any given moment.
Shields that sell for $3.50 can be affixed to a transponder to keep it from being read in cars with more than one occupant, buses, vans, etc., which are entitled to use the lanes for free. The shields have to be removed to cross the Narrows Bridge, or when a driver is alone and wants to use the HOT lanes. They are velcroed to the inside of the windshield and somehow interrupt the connection between the transponder and overhead reader without actually being between them.
If you are a bridge user and have a transponder, don’t just ignore that e-mail you got this week from the Good to Go! toll program about the HOT lanes. Janet Matkin of that office says they’ll use a “customer-friendly manner” in dealing with drivers who get tolled because they forgot or didn’t understand the shield when they hit Highway 167, but they won’t easily reverse the toll.
Janet says about 5,000 of the shields have been bought. She didn’t know how many of those are mainly Narrows Bridge users.
There is a lot of information on a state Web site as to how it will all work, with the obligatory Frequently Asked Questions section. But, wouldn’t you know it, I had some questions that must not be frequently asked, but that I bet will enter the minds of dozens of drivers every day.
For example, I wonder how long a toll collection is good for. If a person pulls off in Kent for half an hour, will he be charged again to continue on in the HOT lanes, or will the original toll cover him when he returns to the freeway? How about if he returns to go back the other way? What if he forgot to stop at a previous interchange and goes back, then retraces his path in the original direction?
Will a HOT lane trip to go to dinner in the evening require a new toll if the car was accessed tolls on a trip to work and back earlier in the day?
The out basket: Patty Rubstello of the HOT lanes project says most of my theoretical situations will require paying the toll more than once. Certainly a new toll must be paid to change directions and go back in the HOT lane. A toll for travel in one direction will be good for the 20 minutes or so it is expected to take a HOT lane driver the length of the corridor, about a dozen miles, she said. A half-hour stop in Kent would use that up and incur a new toll to return to the HOT lanes.
Unlike on he Narrows Bridge, the driver of a transponder-equipped car will see a white light flash each time he passes beneath a reader, even if the toll is collected only once. That’s more to tell enforcement officers that the toll has been paid than to comfort the driver, Patty said.