Dear Street Smart:
Recently I have noticed vehicles exiting the HOV lanes (high-occupancy-vehicle lanes, better known as carpool lanes) at points other than at the designated entrance or exit. I have been told that it is legal to exit the HOV lane if there is a white line running along the double yellow lines. Is this correct?
Definitely not, according to Carol Kelly, a spokeswoman for the California Highway Patrol in San Juan Capistrano. The only time you can exit or enter a carpool lane is over a broken white line, which generally occurs just before or after an onramp or offramp.
To enter or exit the lane any other time, Kelly said, can get you a $271 fine, the same amount assessed drivers who use the lane without any passengers.
"If you're solo in the carpool lane, and you see the CHP coming up on you and hurry over that line and get caught," she said, "you'll get dinged twice. It happens all the time. Like you have a businessman late to a meeting, in and out of the carpool lane, back and forth and that will draw attention to him. If we pull him over, he'll get both citations."
Dear Street Smart:
At what point can we expect the completion of construction at the intersection of the San Diego Freeway and MacArthur Boulevard in Irvine? It seems that this particular project has been in existence for some two or more years. Any comments?
Construction is expected to be completed by late October, said Russ Thiele, project manager for Irvine.
Because traffic at that point has increased significantly over the years, he said, the city is building a bridge over the freeway for northbound traffic. Currently, traffic in both directions goes over a single bridge. When the $8-million project is completed, the existing bridge will be for southbound traffic only.
In addition to the new bridge, Thiele said, workers are widening MacArthur, reconstructing some on- and offramps and making extensive flood- control improvements.
You're wrong about the project having taken two years. Thiele said the work began in May 1996.
Dear Street Smart:
Recently, while traveling south on the Costa Mesa Freeway north of Dyer Road, I noticed a message on the Caltrans sign board saying, "Rte. 73--S.J. Toll Road South Clear to San Diego."
The uninitiated might take this as an official route advisory which, if heeded, would result in a slightly longer, and more expensive, trip.
I have two questions. Why the message in the first place, and what is Caltrans doing promoting a privately owned tollway?
To begin with, the San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor is not private but public, according to Albert Miranda, a spokesman for Caltrans. It was built and is operated by the Transportation Corridor Agencies, a public entity created for the purpose.
Caltrans posted that sign, Miranda said, to identify the toll road as an "alternate route that can be used to alleviate congestion on \o7 all\f7 of our freeways.
"A lot of people aren't aware that this particular project has come on line," he said, "and that it is an alternative to using the 405 or I-5 freeways, both of which are already heavily congested."
Although the toll road goes only as far as Mission Viejo, he said, the sign mentions San Diego to let drivers know it connects to southbound Interstate 5, which will take them to the state's southern tip.
\o7 Street Smart appears Mondays in The Times Orange County Edition. Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about traffic, commuting and what makes it difficult to get around in Orange County. Include simple sketches if helpful. Letters may be published in upcoming columns. Please write to David Haldane, c/o Street Smart, The Times Orange County Edition, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, send faxes to (714) 966-7711 or e-mail him at\f7 David.Haldane@latimes.com \o7 Include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers. Letters may be edited, and no anonymous letters will be accepted.