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Boston Carpool Lane Illegally Eliminated is to be Restored

In May of 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation made the decision to allow single-occupant vehicle drivers to use the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lane on I-93 in order to avoid the construction taking place on Route 1 and the Tobin Bridge. 

This decision was made mainly to benefit those commuters coming from North Shore, however there has been no evidence to suggest opening this lane has actually had any benefit to these commuters.

Put in place in the early 1990s, the I-93 HOV lane was created to reduce air pollution by encouraging those that were traveling alone or with fewer people to carpool or travel by bus. With transportation by bus becoming increasingly more popular, it was even more important to have this lane closed off to those who were not traveling by bus or carpool. 

In October 2019, upset about the change that was made without the proper legal process, an environmental group known as the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed a notice of intent to file suit because of the allowance of single-occupant vehicles into the carpool lane. In the notice, the foundation stated that the average run times for the 325 and 326, which are two other public bus routes, ran an average of 5 to 8 minutes slower with the HOV lane being open to everyone.

The senior attorney of the Conservation Law Foundation stated that not only are they looking to reinstate the HOV lane but also other ways of transit that make sense for a majority of the commuters.  

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation made many other commitments in the settlement such as:

  • A pilot project to allow buses on I-93 to drive on the right shoulder lane between Woburn and Somerville, essentially creating a new bus lane
  • A pilot bus-only lane started on the southbound of the Tobin Bridge, benefiting one of the bridge’s busiest routes.
  • A study of future locations within the I-495 area for bus lanes, HOV lanes, and roadway pricing, with advice from environmental justice communities.
  • Only making changes to HOV lanes when the proper legal process is implemented

With I-93 being one of Massachusetts’s busiest roadways, it is expected that the pilot bus lane on the bridge will be around for at least a full year before it is transferred over to a permanent lane. This is considered a huge win for the conservationists who are excited to see more positive changes being made to the transportation system. 

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