Gov. George Deukmejian unveiled the newest twist in freeway driving Wednesday: special “reversible express lanes” that will be tested along an 8-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in north San Diego County.
The two reversible lanes, part of Deukmejian’s plan to ease traffic congestion in California, will be closed to all but southbound traffic during peak morning hours and then will be limited to northbound traffic during afternoon rush hours. Traffic on the special lanes will be limited to buses, vans, cars with two or more passengers and motorcycles.
The lanes have been specially constructed down the middle of an 8-mile stretch of freeway running north from downtown at a cost of $31.4 million. Movement on the lanes will be directed from a high-technology command post.
Striped barriers at the beginning and end of the 8-mile section will close off traffic in the lanes except during morning and afternoon rush hours. The two lanes are separated from the other freeway lanes by parallel concrete walls. Computerized signs will flash information to motorists.
Traffic on the northbound and southbound lanes will not be affected.
“The whole idea is to get a greater number of people in each vehicle,” said Deukmejian, who has been putting more emphasis on imaginative ways of dealing with traffic congestion since the $1-billion highway construction bond issue he backed in the June primary election was narrowly defeated by voters.
Deukmejian said he hopes the 8-mile stretch of express freeway lanes will “provide much needed relief” to motorists who commute on Interstate 15, considered one of the busiest freeways in Southern California.
The governor and other state and local officials took inaugural trips on the lanes Wednesday. The special lanes will be opened to afternoon commuter traffic today and then to both morning and evening traffic beginning Monday.
Robert Best, Caltrans director, said the reversible lanes are part of a statewide emphasis by his agency on what officials like to call “high-occupancy vehicle” lanes.
Best said 94 miles of express lanes are being used throughout the state, with another 150 miles under construction.
Before Deukmejian participated in ceremonies to open the new freeway lanes, he asked about 1,000 city officials attending a League of California Cities convention in San Diego to join his efforts to promote car-pooling and other programs to help ease the traffic problems.
Deukmejian told the convention delegates that he is encouraging special incentive programs for state employees aimed at getting them to participate in ride sharing or public transportation programs. State employees who organize car-pools or van-pools will receive extra money under a program being started. The state is also offering reduced-cost transit passes, Deukmejian said.
On top of that, Deukmejian told the city officials that the state is going to a system of flexible work hours for employees and is trying to schedule truck deliveries to state offices at off-peak hours.
Don Benninghoven, league executive director, said many cities have already adopted ride sharing and other programs mentioned by Deukmejian. He said the governor’s proposals “are attempts to get at the problem without a big commitment of money.”
Benninghoven said a vast majority of the city officials attending the conference would support a hike in the gasoline tax. Deukmejian has consistently opposed raising taxes to finance highway construction.