METRO extends hours of HOT lanes

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METRO hopes a new plan to extend HOT lanes' hours can be part of the solution to Houston's traffic congestion problem (KTRK)

Houston METRO CEO Tom Lambert says with more people on the roads than ever before, something needs to be done to help ease the traffic congestion. The agency hopes a new plan to extend HOT lanes' hours can be part of the solution.

"We had 100,000 new residents move to the region last year, and I believe 89,000 of those reside in Harris County," says Houston METRO CEO Tom Lambert. "Texas Transportation Index comes out with a report annually, and talks about congestion index, where you're seeing slower speeds, which means more traffic. And we're seeing that, and we're seeing that not just in the morning - it's all times of day."

Currently, METRO manages 102 miles of HOT lanes in the Houston region, including I-45 North Freeway, I-45 the Gulf Freeway, US-290 the Northwest Freeway, US-59 the Southwest Freeway, and US-59 the Eastex Freeway. They're open outbound from 1pm to 8pm on weekdays, but based on public feedback and the bumper-to-bumper conditions that lead into the weeknights, they've decided to change that.

"We think there's an opportunity to extend the hours from 8pm to 11pm during the week to see how many people might use the HOT lanes throughout the region. So, that's the first thing we're going to do starting on July 1. If you're a carpooler, a motorcycler, or a transit user, you ride it for free. If you're a single occupant car, you pay a $1 toll," explains Lambert.

Weekend traffic is also a nightmare, so Lambert says METRO decided to open the lanes then, too.

"So, Saturday and Sunday going inbound on both days, from 10am to 8pm," he said.

It's free for HOV users, and $1 for single-occupant users.

While the program starts Wednesday, Lambert explains it isn't permanent yet.

"We're going to test this program for the next 90 days to see what's the experience, what are the positive things, the negative things we might learn, and then come back to the board to see if it's something they wish to continue," says Lambert.

The new HOT lane hours start Wednesday.
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