Hi all. My family is from British Columbia but do almost all of our camping in Washington State. We love the State Parks. On our trips South we pass by some express/HOV lanes and we wonder if we are allowed to travel in these lanes with our setup. We have a fifth wheel. So, are we allowed in these lanes?
According to the Washington DOT site, RV's are not prohibited from the HOV lanes. Cut and pasted from their site:
"Trucks are limited to 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, but there is no weight limit for recreational vehicles or buses. Towing is allowed in the HOV lanes as long as an adequate speed can be maintained and the combined weight does not exceed 10k."
"Who cannot use freeway HOV lanes?...Vehicles pulling a trailer when the total weight of both vehicles is more than 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight..."
Seems to me an RV can go in, but not a towing combo over 10K, such as a Fiver.
I have used the HOV lanes many times while towing. There is (was) a stretch of I-5 north of Olympia that has (or had) towing restrictions in the left lane a couple of years ago. Not that any dumb arse restrictions stopped me from using the left lane when needed.
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Don't try towing in a HOV lane in California. You are restricted to the right lane when towing, and the second from the right lane only to pass. If the freeway has 4 or more lanes, then you can use either of the right two lanes.
I have not seen a HOV lane that is one of the right two lanes. And if while towing, you are only allowed in the right two lanes, well that pretty much says that towing in the HOV lane is not legal.
You can take a bus or motorhome into most HOV lanes in California. Yet the 91 freeway has a toll lane, and that lane is not legal to drive anything over 10,000 pounds. This is because there are 4 tow trucks on duty during the rush hour, they can tow a 10,000 pound vehicle, but not much more than that, and not equipped to tow a vehicle with a trailer.
Part of the sales pitch of the freeway 91 HOV and pay as you go lanes is that they claim to be ready to clear a collision in a few minutes during rush hour, so the traffic will get moving again quickly. That is why they don't allow vehicles over 10,000 pounds.
I like what Oregon does, and Arizona seems to have adopted too. Any passenger vehcile can use the HOV lanes during non-peak hours, no matter the passengers inside. So 2 minimum is only a requirement between 6 am and 10 am, and 3 pm - 6 pm. I really liked that, because it acts like a extra lane on weekends, and non-peak hours.
In California, especially LA county, it is good that they still restrict the carpool lanes 24/7. This is because the freeways are so jammed with traffic, that sometimes only the carpool lanes are at a decent speed. So the carpool lanes still encourage carpooling on weekends and the rush hour seems to last from 5 am to 7 or 8 PM on weekdays and 10 am to 7 pm on weekends.
The traffic flows much better in San Diego county. The citizens decided to dedicate the correct amont of space to freeways, and not having probles with "Not IN My Back Yard" like found on the northern sections of the 710 freeway in Passadena.
At least Orange Country made a commitment to expand the I5 freeway with 3 extra lanes from the county line south to the I405 interchange in Irvine. This increased speeds a lot! Now they just need two carpool lanes from the 405 south to the Mexico border, along with a 5th lane for regular traffic.
City buses (express runs) use the HOV lanes where available. They've been adding special exits for these inside lanes, for these buses and commuters.
However the shoulder for the HOV lanes might not be as large and convenient as with the right hand lanes. And in some areas, especially south of Seattle, the HOV lanes curve a bit more, having to dodge bridge piers, or otherwise find space in the median area. So if you are claustrophobic or easily disoriented, they might not be a good idea.
Besides the HOV lane (generally the inside lane), I5 from Northgate (north Seattle) to just south of downtown, has reversible express lanes. These are open south bound during the morning rush hour, and reversed about noon for the outbound rush hour traffic. Weekend directions are less predictable.
The WSDOT web site has a page with Seattle travel times. That includes estimates of current travel times using express and/or HOV lanes. At the moment (4pm) HOV lanes are lot faster along I405 on the east side, but no different along I5 through Seattle.