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Friday, January 17, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Getting There

Hov Lanes Along I-90 Will Shift To The Left

In just a month, the moving HOV lane syndrome is going to hit.

This time, it'll take place on Interstate 90 as the high-occupancy-vehicle lanes that had been on the right side move to the left side.

That's all being done as I-90 moves through various construction phases.

In its final form, the I-90 HOV lanes are going to run up the middle, but they've been out on the right shoulder as a temporary deal to allow construction work.

The change to the left is to take place Feb. 15, but drivers will start seeing evidence of the coming change with new lane markers being put down as early as next week.

In fact, for a while, there won't be any HOV lanes marked on I-90 as the transition is gradually phased in.

"For a week, we won't have HOV lanes," says Ron Howard, assistant construction engineer, for the state Department of Transportation.

The work is part of things that got rolling last fall as the so-called "ramps to nowhere" opened connecting I-90 to Fourth Avenue South.

Now the second part of that job will be phased in next month with the HOV changes.

For buses, the changes will mean a direct route into the Metro tunnel, and for car-pools, the route will provide a direct connection to Airport Way South and Fifth Avenue South.

The HOV lane switch itself will take place from the East Channel Bridge to Rainier Avenue South. Then the switched lanes will connect with the main HOV lane connection from Rainier Avenue South to the Kingdome area.

The Kingdome-area HOV lanes will be reversible, with gates controlling access, as is done with Interstate 5's express lanes.

The changes were part of a series of construction changes announced yesterday by the DOT and the State Patrol in a Bellevue meeting with area transportation reporters, all of whom agreed there's something about HOV lanes that irritates people.

"It's the thing everyone always asks about when I talk to Lions Clubs and things," said KIRO's Paul Brendle.

(And I, of course, once calculated that I've written 32 stories about HOV lanes in the past couple of years.)

"It's the old `no-cuts' philosophy from grade school," said Patrol Lt. John O'Laughlin. "Speeding doesn't bother people, but cutting in HOV lanes does."

The HOV-lane question remains a perplexing one, and a number of changes are being considered to try to make them more effective. A proposed law, for example, would change the fine for an HOV ticket from $47 to a sliding scale of $47 for the first ticket, $250 for the second and $500 for the third.

But enforcement remains difficult. Even with such changes, I'm beginning to think HOV lanes are like the JFK assassination - people never get tired of speculating about what might have been.

Traffic notes:

Monday's a holiday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so traffic could be light next week, and state driver-licensing offices, normally open Saturday, will be closed tomorrow to note the occasion.

On I-90, two right lanes of the westbound roadway from Mercer Island to the Mount Baker tunnel will be closed Tuesday through Friday from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. to prepare for those HOV lane changes in February.

And on I-5, the northbound left lanes will have nightly closures from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Northeast 45th Street to North 92nd Street until next Friday.

Got a traffic problem, beef, suggestion or question to share with us? Call 382-8899, weekdays or write "Getting There," The Seattle Times, Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111.

"Getting There" appears Wednesdays and Fridays in the Northwest section of The Times.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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