On May 20, the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County plans to implement high occupancy toll lanes down the center of Hwy. 290 to help facilitate traffic flow and minimize congestion along the corridor. These lanes will be open to single occupancy vehicles with authorized toll tags for a small fee, but will remain free of charge to high occupancy vehicles. This will be Metro's fourth HOT lane project in Houston.
"We have already seen about a 20 percent increase in vehicles along the three previous HOV lanes that have been converted to HOT lanes," said Tom Lambert, interim president and CEO of Metro. "So we know that this mobility option can help reduce some of the congestion on the main lanes of Hwy. 290."
The existing HOV lane configuration on Hwy. 290 stretches about 13.5 miles and sees an average of 7,500 vehicle per day. That number is expected to increase to about 9,000 vehicles per day with the addition of the HOT lanes.
For solo drivers wishing to utilize the new HOT lanes, a Metro HOT Lanes Toll Tag, a Harris County EZ Tag, TxDOT's TxTAG or the Dallas NTTA Toll Tag will be required. Verification lanes have been installed, briefly expanding to two lanes and requiring motorists to declare single-occupancy status by moving to the lane marked "Toll Only." Once in this lane, motorists will be charged the correlating toll regardless of occupancy status.
Toll prices will vary between $1–$5 depending on time of day and the amount of congestion on the HOT lanes, according to Metro. Revenues fund costs associated with the operation, maintenance and enforcement of the Metro HOT lanes.
Hwy. 290 motorists can expect to see increased construction along the Hwy. 290 corridor's main lanes and frontage roads as the Texas Department of Transportation's expansion project progresses. While TxDOT plans to keep the same number of main lanes open during construction as before, varying lane closures on frontage roads are expected to cause morning and afternoon congestion during peak hours.
"The opening of the HOT lanes provides Houstonians with another commute option during the Hwy. 290 reconstruction," said Meredith Alberto, community outreach representative with Metro.
The Hwy. 290 HOT lanes will feature camera monitoring systems, enforcement stations, traffic monitoring systems and automated entrance and exit gates. The monitoring systems will act as both an enforcement and a public safety tool, alerting emergency units of traffic incidents.
Metro has implemented three other HOT lanes on several of Houston's major thoroughfares since last year, including southbound Hwy. 59 and north and southbound I-45. Metro has future plans to open HOT lanes on northbound Hwy. 59 by this summer.