An eight-mile stretch of the Artesia Freeway's eastbound emergency lane has been opened, as part of an effort to ease afternoon rush-hour traffic while rewarding car-pools and bus riders.
The emergency lane is open 3 to 7 p.m. weekdays from Central Avenue in Compton to the San Gabriel River Freeway. During the first week to 10 days of the project, only vehicles with three or more passengers will be allowed in the special lane. Eventually, vehicles with two or more will be permitted.
"We want to see how things are going at the start," said David H. Roper, deputy district director of traffic operations for the California Department of Transportation.
The project is a $250,000, one-year experiment that could lead to more emergency lanes being opened during rush hours, Roper said. "We will be looking at accidents, the number of violators, illegal car-pools, public reaction."
The Artesia Freeway was chosen for the experiment because it has a wide emergency shoulder that could be expanded. It also has traffic congestion that needs to be relieved, Roper said, with more than 18,000 vehicles jamming the Artesia during peak hours.
The idea for the car-pool/bus lane is based on the San Bernardino Freeway busway, which opened in 1974 between West Covina and downtown Los Angeles. The difference between the two is cost, Roper said. It cost $60 million to build the additional lane for the 11-mile San Bernardino busway.
So far, about $156,000 has been spent to resurface and upgrade the Artesia emergency lane, said Felicia Archer, Caltrans public information officer.
The restricted-access lane is separated from the regular lanes by a double yellow line. Motorists can enter the lane along the median strip of eastbound California 91 at Central Avenue in Compton. The only other entrance to the commuter lane is just west of Cherry Avenue, which allows traffic from the Long Beach Freeway to enter.
The special lane ends at the San Gabriel River Freeway in Cerritos, and motorists can continue on either freeway. The only other exit is at Lakewood Boulevard.
An "emergency pocket" for the California Highway Patrol to make violation stops is also included in the special lane. Kevin Dougherty, CHP public affairs officer, said motorcycle officers from substations in South-Central Los Angeles, Santa Fe Springs and Westminster are patrolling the area.
Cost of citations vary with individual courts. However, a single driver caught in the car-pool lane will pay a $35 fine in Long Beach traffic courts, Dougherty said.
A van pool carrying Caltrans officials and members of a 25-member advisory committee formed to study, implement and oversee the project officially opened the test lane Monday.
Employers throughout the freeway corridor have been asked to encourage their employees to use car-pools and buses.