Week in Review : MAJOR EVENTS, IMAGES AND PEOPLE IN ORANGE COUNTY NEWS : COUNTY : Caltrans Says Car-Pool Lane on 55 Is Working

Times staff writer Bob Schwartz compiled the Week in Review stories

The car-pool lane on the Costa Mesa Freeway (55) is working, Caltrans said last week in a status report on the 9-month-old experiment. But critics of the report, citing a separate study by UC Irvine, said the car-pool lane has caused the number of accidents on the crowded freeway to go up.

The Caltrans report said that traffic on the freeway has increased by about one-third since the car-pool lane opened, yet the average trip time has dropped from 35 minutes to 30 minutes in the morning and 23 minutes in the afternoon. Accidents have also gone up, the report said, but the increase is due to "the general rise in the volumes and vehicle miles traveled on the freeway."

Bill Ward, technical director of Drivers for Highway Safety, a grass-roots organization critical of the car-pool lane, said the Caltrans data exaggerated the lane's impact on total freeway capacity. In fact, Ward said, the car-pool lane "has caused accidents to go up."

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