Boise legislator seeks to pave way for carpool lanes


Source: Idaho

Author: Jay Patrick

BOISE - Some of Idaho's smaller counties can set aside highway lanes for buses and carpoolers, so called HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes, but they're not allowed in the state's handful of metropolitan areas.

That doesn't make any sense to Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise: she's sponsoring a bill to make establishment of HOV lanes a possibility anywhere in the state.

As it is, the use of certain lanes can be restricted to public transportation and vehicles carrying two or more people only in counties with populations of less than 25,000 people. The county also has to contain a designated "resort city" with the ability to impose local sales taxes.

The HOV bill that passed with those limitations in 2009 was good enough for sponsor Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, who only sought to free up buses and vans on Highway 75; her initial bill established the possibility for HOV lanes everywhere, but some Ada County and Canyon County legislators objected to the idea, Jaquet said.

So the "resort city" limitation was added, as well as the population provision.

Sen. John McGee, R-Caldwell, a former chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said he doesn't recall any opposition to HOV lanes in metro area.

At any rate, King wants to strike the restrictions.

"I don't know why they're in there," she said. "Now we'll just make it (HOV lanes) more available."

The Idaho Transportation Department is currently studying the need for setting aside HOV lanes on Interstate 84 and the I-84 connector, said Sue Sullivan, an environmental manager with ITD. A study done in the 1990s concluded the special lanes weren't needed, and the current study will likely find the same, since recent projects have widened the freeway, but analysts could set some year in the future that they think the lanes will be warranted, Sullivan said.

Republican Sen. Shawn Keough, from Sandpoint, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, supports the change. She has spoken with King about the bill. As cities grow, ITD should have the option of establishing HOV lanes in order to move traffic as effectively as possible.

"It seems like a tool they ought to have," she said.


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