MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A federal administrator says he may block an experiment which would open high-occupancy vehicle lanes to general traffic.
The Legislature had ordered a report by February on how such an experiment would affect traffic flow and safety on Interstate Highways 394 and 35W.
But Alan Steger, administrator of the Minnesota division of the Federal Highway Administration, said Congress would have to exempt I-35W from federal funding rules before a test on that freeway could even be considered.
Those rules don't apply to I-394, but he said a test there will be considered only after a review of facts and figures that show it would be in the public interest.
Steger said he would not hesitate to suspend federal money for current Minnesota road projects if the state goes ahead with the test without federal permission.
"HOV lanes have been widely used and widely accepted for over 30 years around the country, and they have proven to be a very cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to address congestion," Steger said. "We are very cautious about any proposal to go in the other direction."
Nearly 2,400 miles of HOV lanes are operating in 19 states. The Federal Highway Administration lists those in Los Angeles; Houston; Long Island, N.Y.; Washington, D.C., Hartford, Conn., and Seattle as examples of success.
Because traffic congestion in the Twin Cities area is only going to get worse, giving up the extra people-carrying capacity offered by the carpool-bus lanes deserves careful consideration, Steger said. And he said it's unlikely that a thorough review could be done by February.
State Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, said the test is needed because "we deserve to know if this is the best use of our limited transportation dollars."
Along with safety and traffic flow, the test would examine the effects on transit and car pool use.
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