Under-used high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes of US Highway 75 will soon become general purpose lanes, most of the time, under a new "breakthrough" agreement with the Federal Highway Administration, according to a news release from the North Central Texas Council of Governments.
"A plan to improve reliability along a stretch of US 75 between the Sam Rayburn Tollway and Interstate Highway 635 will be moving forward," NCTCOG said.
The lanes won't be general-purpose 100 percent of the time, however.
"Because the HOV lanes were built with funding through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, current federal law dictates that they cannot become pure general-purpose lanes," NCTCOG said. "Federal law requires that they must retain an HOV component with the ability for HOV users to move at reasonable speeds."
So, 6 percent of the time a small toll will be required for single-occupant vehicles traveling southbound during weekday mornings and for single-occupant vehicles traveling northbound during selected hours in the evening.
Vehicles with two or more occupants will be able to use the new lanes without being charged the small toll.
"The lanes will remain open as non-tolled general-purpose lanes for the rest of the day and weekends, operating around the clock," NCTCOG said.
"Given the current alternative of leaving the HOV lanes under-used and ineffective, the solution to move forward as required by FHWA seems to be the best and only option to legally provide material congestion relief to the users of US 75, north of IH 635," said Duncan Webb, Collin County Commissioner and member of NCTCOG's Regional Transportation Council.
Initially, the new lanes will operate from Bethany Drive in Allen to IH 635. A planned interchange at Ridgeview Drive and US 75 will allow the lanes to extend north to the Sam Rayburn Tollway once the interchange is complete, in 2025.
The $28 million interchange is expected to receive environmental clearance by June, with construction slated to begin in September 2022.
“The goal of this project is to increase the capacity of US 75 in order to make the fast-growing corridor more efficient for commuters, residents and businesses in the area,” said Allen Mayor Steve Terrell. “Collin County continues to experience substantial growth, and it is important that we address transportation needs along this corridor while doing so in a way that is fair to motorists. Lanes that remain toll-free most of the time was a fair and equitable way to improve reliability.”
It'll be up to TxDOT to transition the HOV lanes to general use. That is expected to happen sometime this year.