By Orange County Supervisor Pat Bates
The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) Board of Directors received a presentation from representatives of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) regarding the department’s recent High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Degradation Study and Action Plan. The report and action plan were required as a federal mandate from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
The report identifies a number of HOV lane segments within Orange County as “degraded.” An HOV lane is considered degraded if the average speed of traffic during morning or evening weekday peak hour periods is less than 45 miles per hour 10 percent or more of the time over a consecutive 180-day period.
The Action Plan provides detailed remedies for every freeway segment with degraded carpool lanes. These remedies include:
- Additional carpool lanes
- Carpool merging lanes
- Conversion of carpool lanes to toll lanes for single occupant vehicles
- Increased carpool lane occupancy requirements
- Conversion of limited access carpool lanes to continuous access
- New carpool direct access ramps at select locations
- New freeway-to-freeway carpool lane connectors
Caltrans has 180 days from the date of the release of the report (which was August 5) to determine remedies for addressing degradation throughout the state.
OCTA has a number of concerns with the report and action plan, as it is unclear how these concepts would be developed, funded, and implemented once approved. The proposed capital projects and other remedies are justified on six months of traffic data without the benefit of long-term travel forecasts. A system-wide study that includes long-term benefits and costs should be developed to address this issue. Unfortunately, lack of action could potentially jeopardize federal funding for the Orange County freeway program.