That inquiry referred to the role of so-called HOT lanes (High Occupancy Toll lanes) in the state’s Department of Transportation planning. The concept is to charge a toll for access to a limited-access, faster-moving traffic lane in highly congested areas.
NCMatters: In a conversation with Joey Hopkins, deputy division engineer for DOT’s Division 5 (covering the Durham-Raleigh area), only two projects in the state are currently being examined for HOT lane utilization. A congestion study of about 50 miles of I-40 in the Triangle area did look at using the HOT lane concept, and subsequent consideration still includes the potential for a HOT lane or HOV lane (High Occupancy Vehicles carrying a minimum number of passengers, usually two or three).
Charlotte is the only other location actively considering the HOT lane so far – for a portion of its I-77 corridor. That planning is “slightly ahead of us,” Hopkins said of the Triangle's planning process. Nationally, he referred to three metropolitan areas that have actually established hot lanes -- Atlanta, San Francisco and the DC area in Virginia.
According to a current article in Durham’s INDY Week (see “Private Tolling Companies Run Public Roads”), the I-77 HOT lane and other such projects in the future would be managed be a private tolling company. Such public-private financing, Hopkins said, along with other specific toll roads, are tools the agency may use to “stretch dollars” for state transportation needs. Light-rail projects (currently planned for Charlotte and under consideration in the Durham area) and bus transit increases are other items in the agency’s congestion-reduction planning box, he said.
by Nelda Holder, contributing editor