Drivers fighting rush-hour traffic along state Highway 161 through Irving have been getting a little help for the past month. They've been able to drive on the inside, left shoulders between Belt Line Road and state Highway 183 during peak usage hours.
It's a first for Texas, and the Texas Department of Transportation expects to extend it after the test period.
The Peak Hour Lanes are open weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The inside shoulders are normally reserved for emergency vehicles and breakdowns. Tow trucks will be on standby to quickly clear any wrecks or debris.
"We really have been careful considering this," said TxDOT spokeswoman Michelle Releford. "We've observed other states doing it, and it's working for them. It's safe and we think we can be safe working it too."
Southbound on Texas 161, the Peak Hour Lane begins at Valley View Lane and ends just south of the Texas 183 intersection. Northbound, the 161 Peak Hour Lane begins at Conflans Road and ends just past Belt Line Road.
Electronic message boards indicate when the lanes are open, and officials say drivers who are traveling on the shoulder during off-peak hours are causing problems.
Now, TxDOT is improving the signage to help clear any confusion.
"There a little box below that, and it will match the sign above it. It will have a green arrow or a red X for open and closed," Releford said.
The test period will last through November. If TxDOT officials are satisfied with the results, the Peak Hour Lanes will continue.