A Whole New Way to Commute on the Katy
by: Pat Hernandez, April 14, 2009 11:04:41 pm
Since October, a 12 mile stretch of pavement along the Katy Freeway from Highway-6 to the loop was a traffic god-send to HOV users with 2-or more persons in a vehicle. They got to share the exclusive lane with Metro buses. That all changes this Saturday when HOV, mass transit and tollway traffic will merge in a single roadway. LaWanda House with the Harris County Tollroad Authority says the Katy Managed Lanes provide a new transportation option for drivers.
"Unlike the lane that was there — the reversible HOV lane — this roadway is now four lanes in the middle, two in each direction so, instead of having HOV hours in one direction, drivers now have HOV hours in both directions. And so, instead of having that one reversible lane, you now have two lanes in each direction."
Hernandez: "So, for the convenience of getting from point-A to point-B, in less time, less stress—what's it gonna cost?"
Howse: "It's all electronic, so if you want to use it as a toll user, you must have an EZ tag on your vehicle. The price to use the lanes could range, from, depending on the time of day, 30-cents to $1.60 per tolling location."
It is a new look for the Katy, notorious for traffic grid-lock at any hour of the day.
"Anyone who's lived in Houston for many years knows that the Katy was always the freeway looked upon as something you want to avoid at all cost."
Peter Key is deputy director of the Harris County Toll Road Authority. He says the opening of the new lanes was the result of over 10-years of a vision planners had for the Katy Freeway.
"In the last year, our agency has been crafting what people are gonna start experiencing on the 18th of April, which is allowing all these features: mass transit, HOV vehicles, and toll-paying customers into a single roadway."
Hernandez: "How much will that impact the traffic?"
Key: "We think it will be significant if, for nothing else, then people will simply have a new option out there during their commutes, something that hasn't existed before in the Houston area."
Seven other cities in the country use managed lanes, but Houston is the first in Texas. Toll road officials think it will take drivers about two weeks to become familiar with the Katy Managed Lanes. Key says it is just one creative way to maximize capacity on a freeway.
"In the off hours, people recognize that our freeways around town run fairly well, but during commuting hours, when everyone wants to be on the roadway, there is limited capacity, and the managed lanes is one way to make use of what capacity is there."
He adds dynamic pricing during commuting hours should address capacity issues for a while. More information can be found at www.katymanagedlanes.org.
Pat Hernandez, KUHF...Houston Public Radio News.