New options for Katy Fwy drivers

March 10, 2009 7:49:39 AM PDT
The new HOV lanes along the Katy Freeway have been open for several months. Now officials are preparing to open up the toll lanes that would enable single drivers to pay for the privilege of using the less crowded lanes.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

There's a combination of several driving options. The Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA) is using HOV lanes, mass transit and toll roads in a single roadway, called the Katy Managed Lanes. They are the first of their kind in the state. Mass transit and HOV riders, meaning vehicles with more than one person will use the HOV lanes free of charge during HOV hours. Those who drive along will pay with their EZ tag to use the HOV.

"This is an all electronic toll road so you cannot access it by paying cash," explained LaWanda Howse of HCTRA. "It does not accept cash but you can use it with your EZ tag or TxTag in your vehicle."

Up to now, it's been free to use the HOV, but is expected to change on April 18 when the Harris County commissioners' court is scheduled to vote for setting a rate. Here's how it works.

The HOV will remain free for carpoolers during peak times from 5am to 11am and 2pm to 8pm Monday through Friday, eastbound and westbound. The motorist will not need an EZ tag.

Those driving alone during the peak times can pay up to $4 one way for a full trip along the HOV lanes by passing through toll plazas at Eldridge, Wilcrest and Wirt,. Since the system is electronic, the driver must have an EZ tag.

For motorists who drive along the Katy Freeway every day, the issue now becomes money-based. How much is your time worth?

Motorist Lars Larson said, "Of course, in this tough economic time, it is a hardship even for the most rich of us, to put it that way."

"I guess people if people have a long way to go they'll be willing to pay for it," said motorist Christina Habert. "My time is worth a lot, I think."

Harris County Commissioners' Court is expected to vote on this issue Tuesday.

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