Traffic Reduction Prompts Caltrans to Call I-15 Car-Pool Lane a Success

Times Staff Writer

Six months have passed since the opening of the express lanes on Interstate 15, and state transportation officials are ready to declare the $31-million project a success.

The county’s only computer-controlled reversible express lanes opened along an 8-mile stretch of I-15 last October. There are now an estimated 1,800 fewer vehicles on the freeway during peak traffic hours, according to Caltrans statistics.

An average of 6,839 vehicles each day now takes advantage of the two express lanes, which can only be used by cars with two or more riders. The lanes, which occupy the freeway’s median, are open only during the morning and evening rush hours.


The lanes were built for the convenience of the rapidly growing number of North County residents who commute to jobs in San Diego. Pop-up pneumatic tubes, metal crossing gates and message signs steer southbound drivers into the lanes in the morning; the gates are reversed to route northbound traffic into the special lanes in the evening.

The success of the express lanes has buoyed plans for car-pool lanes on other area freeways, according to Caltrans spokesman Steve Saville. Caltrans plans to extend the express lanes on I-15 from the point where they now end at North City Parkway in Rancho Penasquitos northward to California 78 in Escondido. Other car-pool lanes are planned for Interstate 5 between Interstate 8 and Interstate 805 south of Del Mar, and on I-805 from its north junction with I-5 south to California 52.

Although the express lanes have alleviated traffic through the congested area somewhat, “it’s still a challenge getting out there and educating people,” Saville said.

“I think there has been an improvement in the traffic flow, but the big problem is a lot of people still are not car-pooling,” CHP Officer Alicia Contreras said.

And those who do car-pool sometimes misconstrue the purpose of the “express” lanes, she said: “Many of the citations that are being written within the lanes are being written for speed. . . . I think people are still misinterpreting express to mean they can go faster.”

Caltrans has set up a free service to encourage car pooling, Saville said. Commuters can call 237-POOL and tell the dispatcher the area they live in, where they work and their work hours, and Caltrans will provide a computerized match with someone who has similar commuting needs.