Does the HOV lane become the 'fast lane' when not enforced?

Does the HOV lane become the 'fast lane' when not enforced?

Credit: AP

Does the HOV lane become the 'fast lane' when not enforced?

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by TRAVIS PITTMAN / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on April 18, 2011 at 12:16 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 18 at 7:25 AM

We actually have two questions this week from readers wondering about HOV lanes. Specifically, they want to know about those lanes on Interstate 405, SR 167 and on I-90 and SR 520 (east of I-405.) Those are only enforced between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m.

So during the hours in which these lanes are no longer restricted, which lane technically becomes the passing lane? Is it the far left, usually carpool lane? Or the second to left, usually passing lane? Logic would dictate the carpool lane becomes the passing lane.

Christina
Renton

Christina's logic is sound -- and correct. According to WSP spokesman Dan Coon, the HOV lane should be treated as the far left lane, or the passing lane, during those hours when the HOV rules are not being enforced.

"When HOV lanes are open to all traffic, they should be treated like a regular left-side freeway lane.  Left-side freeway lanes are normally reserved for passing, so are only to be used to pass," Coon said.

RCW 46.61.100 goes deeper into the rules about passing lanes, although you won't find any specific mention of HOV lanes. So, go with what Coon says.

Is it legal to use a carpool exit off the freeway during the hours that the carpool lanes are not in effect?

Jake
Kenmore

The answer is no, Jake. 

"Although Eastside freeway HOV lanes are open to all traffic at night, direct access ramps are still restricted to HOVs at all times," is what the Washington State Department of Transportation website says about this rule.

That means only carpools, vanpools, buses, motorcycles and emergency vehicles are permitted on direct access HOV ramps, no matter what time of day it is.

If you have a question, send it to iwonder@king5.com.  Please include your first name and where you are writing from so we can post it with your question. We will not post your last name or any other personal information.

(And you can feel free to ask about something besides traffic.)

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