Motorists who use carpool lanes planned for the Garden Grove Freeway may be allowed to go in and out them without regard to lane striping, a Caltrans spokesman said Monday.
The program, which would start in fall, would be part of a three-year pilot project if Caltrans receives necessary approvals from federal highway officials, the California Highway Patrol and the Orange County Transportation Authority, which requested the change in rules, said James Pinheiro, Caltrans deputy district director in Orange County.
If approved, the 22 Freeway would be the first in Southern California to allow continuous access to a carpool lane.
Cars and trucks with at least two occupants are allowed to use the lanes, as are motorcyclists and solo drivers in certain hybrid vehicles.
Pinheiro, who spoke Monday before a committee of Orange County Transportation Authority board members, said the California Department of Transportation rejected other carpool lane proposals, including usage during limited hours.
"It's a public safety issue," he said, explaining that Caltrans did not want to confuse drivers traveling between counties.
The Garden Grove Freeway is undergoing a $495-million widening that will add carpool and auxiliary lanes in each direction along a 12-mile stretch from the 57 Freeway to Valley View Street in Garden Grove. It is scheduled for completion in November.
During the three years of the pilot program, Caltrans wants OCTA to provide a video monitoring system, pay for additional CHP patrols and gather public reaction, Pinheiro said.
CHP officials don't know whether they can add more patrol officers but generally support the idea, Lt. Kenn Rosenberg said.
He didn't know how motorists would adapt to the program. "Anytime you have changes, there's always the chance of collisions," Rosenberg said.
Orange County, which built its first carpool lane in 1985 on the Costa Mesa Freeway, now has the highest peak volume for carpool traffic in the state.
The additional lanes on the Garden Grove Freeway will help accommodate the 200,000 motorists who travel the freeway daily.
That number is expected to reach 250,000 by 2020.