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Traffic Q&A: Is it OK for a legal carpool to use HOV lane to bypass ramp meters?

The Transportation Department maintains a website about metered ramps, which includes a helpful section titled, “How do I use them?”
The Transportation Department maintains a website about metered ramps, which includes a helpful section titled, “How do I use them?” dperine@thenewstribune.com

Q: Carpools have the right to bypass ramp meters if there’s a dedicated HOV lane on the on-ramp, don’t they? Dave S., DuPont

A: The short answer is yes. The longer answer follows.

Dave asked because he had a bad experience not long ago at a metered ramp onto northbound Interstate 5 near DuPont.

Driving with a passenger in his car, he zipped past the single-occupant vehicles waiting at the ramp traffic signal.

Someone took offense.

“The person at the head of the metered lane sped past us in the ‘shoulder lane’ and cut in front of us,” Dave wrote to Traffic Q&A headquarters.

Dave and the ticked-off driver turned off at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, where a, ahem, discussion ensued about who was in the wrong.

“He kept yelling that we were breaking the law,” Dave said. “My understanding is that the ‘diamond lane’ may be used by buses and vehicles with two or more people. Who is correct in this matter?”

Multiple sources say you are, Dave.

This from Claudia Bingham Baker, spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation:

“The HOV lane on a metered ramp is indeed designed to bypass the meter, so HOV traffic doesn’t have to stop before merging onto the highway. It is an incentive to those who share the ride.

“At the location the reader referenced, the HOV restriction is two-plus (people). At other locations around Puget Sound, the HOV restriction may be more than two-plus, but it would be signed as such.”

The Transportation Department maintains a website about metered ramps, which includes a helpful section titled, “How do I use them?”

Here’s what it says:

“Drive your vehicle up to the white line, or stop bar, to trigger the ramp meter. If the light is red, stop at the white line. When the light turns green, merge onto the freeway.”

It goes on, directly addressing Dave’s question:

“If there is a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) bypass lane, buses, carpools and van pools do not have to stop at the ramp meter signal. They have the right of way over vehicles merging into traffic from the metered lane.”

So rest easy, Dave. You did the right thing.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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