HOV lanes Conroe | Montgomery[/caption]

Construction continues on the extension of high occupancy vehicle lanes on I-45 between Montgomery and Harris counties, a project that could alleviate traffic congestion and facilitate increased public transportation usage.

The Texas Department of Transportation is extending HOV lanes along the center of I-45 from South Loop 336 in Conroe to FM 1960, TxDOT officials said. The 16-mile extension will create an HOV lane in each direction—similar to those found on I-10 in Houston—and is expected to be completed in April.

Construction began on the $2.6 million expansion in October with TxDOT funding 20 percent of the project costs and the remaining 80 percent funded through federal sources, TxDOT officials said.

David Wurdlow, a program manager with Houston-Galveston Area Council, said the new HOV lanes will incentivize car pools and public transportation options. Commuters who use public transportation options—such as The Woodlands Express park and ride or a Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority park and ride—will see the biggest benefit, Wurdlow said.

“It’ll make any of those ride-sharing programs that much more attractive to folks,” he said. “At least there will be fewer cars in the main lane. For those folks who use the park and ride, it will be a big benefit.”

However, Wurdlow said adding lanes on the freeway will not solve congestion during peak traffic times.

“We can’t widen the road enough to provide a congestion-free experience for everyone,” he said.

With rapid population growth northwest of Houston adding more cars on the road, the new lanes could improve commutes for single occupancy vehicles on the main lanes as well, TxDOT Public Information Officer Deidrea George said.

“Adding any form of additional capacity will go a long way in helping to accommodate existing and projected growth in the area,” George said.

TxDOT officials estimate daily traffic counts on I-45 from FM 1960 to South Loop 336 in 2015 will increase by 35 percent in the next 20 years.