House transportation panel gives initial green light to carpool lanes in the Treasure Valley
The House Transportation and Defense Committee approved a bill Thursday that could give a special lane of traffic solely to drivers of multi-passenger cars in the Treasure Valley.
Not all legislators are thrilled with the proposal, however.
Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, is sponsoring a bill she believes would give drivers more incentive to carpool, thereby reducing traffic congestion in the Boise area. King's bill wouldn't necessarily mean Interstate-84, the major thoroughfare in the Treasure Valley, would immediately see the carpool lanes, but instead the provision would give counties the power to designate them as they see fit.
The specialized lanes have been instituted in other parts of the country, the closest being the Salt Lake metro area. To use the them, vehicles must have at least two occupants and the lanes are closed off to all other traffic. Drivers who use the space without having at least one passenger can be cited by police.
Committee vice chair Joe Palmer, R-Meridian, says traffic levels in the area don’t warrant the special lanes. “That would be a waste of valuable pavement,” Palmer told IdahoReporter.com Friday. “They are unnecessary because we don’t have enough traffic to support them.”
As rules stand, high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are prohibited in counties with more than 25,000 residents meaning that cities in 12 of Idaho counties cannot have them. Two of the three biggest counties in Idaho, Ada and Canyon, are situated on the I-84 corridor.
The Idaho Transportation Department is studying the idea of installing the lanes of traffic. Sue Sullivan, project manager with the department said an earlier study, performed in the 1990s, concluded the lanes would be unnecessary. Sullivan also said the new study would likely find the same answer thanks to widening projects done on the thoroughfare.
Committee chair Leon Smith, R-Twin Falls, has not set a hearing date for King’s bill. If the proposal survives the House, it may have a powerful backer in the Senate. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, told IdahoReporter.com she sees no problem with allowing counties to decide when to implement the lanes. “It seems like a tool they ought to have,” said Keough, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.