A standard, general-use freeway lane is 12 feet wide, and in Orange County they cost about $8 million per mile to build. Expensive as the standard lanes are, The Times (Dec. 22) points out that Caltrans has installed 14-foot-wide lanes on the San Diego Freeway.
Just crossing these lanes that separate the 7-month-old car-pool lanes from the still-congested general-use lanes can get you a $246 fine.
The California Department of Transportation suggests that the "revolutionary" 14-foot-wide buffer lanes may be the reason commuters are using the San Diego Freeway car-pool lanes in greater numbers than commuters are using the 6-year-old Costa Mesa Freeway car-pool lanes. Caltrans conveniently ignores the fact that more commuters were car-pooling on the San Diego freeway before the car-pool lanes were opened. The question never answered is: How many new car pools were formed because of the car-pool-lane incentive?
Joe El-Harake, Caltrans commuter lanes coordinator, says the wider--$8 million per mile--buffers are the wave of the future but, "unlike more expensive concrete barriers, they can't prevent accidents." True enough. However, Mr. El-Harake forgets that the wave of the future will end with the widening of the Santa Ana Freeway.