TxDOT holds public meeting to discuss future off-peak HOV lane project
U.S. 290 is about to undergo modifications to speed up traffic flow while allowing buses to travel around the city faster.
The Texas Department of Transportation hosted a public meeting for community members to view a plan for off-peak HOV lane improvements from W. 34th Street to Barker Cypress Road.
The proposed project involves one inbound lane and one outbound lane on U.S. 290 to operate as HOV lanes during off-peak hours in both the evening and morning. According to TxDOT documentation, the inside inbound lane would be an HOV lane during evening peak hours, while the inside outbound lane would be an HOV lane during morning peak hours. Outside of peak hours, the lanes would be used for all traffic.
Deidrea George, public information officer for TxDOT, said the project is an attempt to reduce heavy traffic inbound and outbound during peak usage hours.
“For morning rush hour, if you’re traveling, you’re most likely coming inbound, so you’re going to be heading eastbound.,” she said. “The high occupancy vehicle lane will go into effect outbound.”
Nader Mirjamali, project manager for Metropolitan Transit Authority, said the project will make it easier for METRO buses to be recycled in and out of the city.
“We want to be able to to recycle our buses and bring them back to the park and rides faster,” he said. “If [a] bus comes to downtown and drops off 45 people, it needs to get back quick to the park and ride to do the next round.”
As far as the lack of barriers surrounding the off-peak HOV lanes, Mirjamali said drivers illegally using the HOV lanes is a possibility.
“The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives,” Mirjamali said. “Three hours out of 24 hours a day is not really that bad.”
Gary Zika, Harris County Flood Control District projects department manager, said the lane improvements have downsides to their functionality, although he understands the need for faster bus service.
“They have to have the buses come back and they’re expecting the traffic counts go up to where it will take them an hour to get back instead of 20 or 30 minutes,” he said. “In two or three years this thing is going to be just the way it was.”
The next steps for the off-peak HOV lane project are to receive public comments, prepare documents for another public meeting, environmental reevaluation and installing signage to indicate active HOV lane hours according to TxDOT officials.
Citizens can submit comments about the project to TxDOT by mail, email or through the U.S. 290 website, www.my290.com. The deadline to submit comments is Oct. 26.