High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Lanes Frequently Asked Questions
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- High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are reserved for carpools, vanpools, buses, and motorcycles during designated time periods.
- HOV lanes are generally designated via white diamonds on signage and pavement markings. HOV lanes can be separated from other lanes by double white lines, or some form of physical barrier.
- Presently, there are about 100 HOV facilities nationwide, representing over 1,200 lane miles. There are also HOV lanes in Canada, and in a wide variety of locations abroad.
- HOV lanes play an integral part in helping metropolitan areas address the needs they have identified for mobility, safety, productivity, environmental stewardship, and quality of life.
- The State of Maryland has two HOV facilities, along I-270 in Montgomery County and along US 50 in Prince George’s County.
EXISTING HOV FACILITIES IN MARYLAND
Regulations Relevant to All HOV Facilities
- The HOV lanes are HOV 2+, meaning two or more people must occupy the vehicle.
- An occupant is any person who occupies one seat in the vehicle (i.e. Pregnant mothers count as one occupant, and an infant in an infant seat counts as one occupant).
- Single-occupant motorcycles are permitted in HOV lanes in Maryland for safety reasons.
- There are currently no exemptions to the HOV occupancy requirement for hybrid vehicles in Maryland.
- Hybrid vehicles registered in Maryland are not permitted to drive solo in Virginia HOV lanes. In order for a hybrid vehicle to use Virginia's HOV lanes, you must have Virginia clean special fuel license plates. This is the only way the Virginia Department of Transportation has to monitor the use of these lanes when there is only one individual in a car.
- The HOV lanes were designed as concurrent flow, meaning they are not physically separated from the general use lanes. Motorists are advised not to weave in and out of the lanes.
- The Maryland State Police handle enforcement on the HOV lanes.
- A violation of the HOV lane carries a $90 fine and one point against a driver’s license for first time offenders and for each subsequent offense. Additionally, if the driver’s violation of the HOV designation leads to a crash, the driver will be subject to three points. You may direct questions regarding the associated fine to the Maryland State Police at firstname.lastname@example.org
- HOV lanes were implemented along I-270 because of traffic growth in the corridor. In the early 1980s, SHA widened mainline I-270 and provided a collector-distributor lane system from Montrose Road to I-370.
- HOV operations along I-270 began in September 1993, with the opening of the HOV lane on the northbound East Spur. The HOV lanes were completed in December 1996.
- The I-270 southbound HOV lane extends from I-370 to the Capital Beltway (I-495), and is operational during the morning peak period from 6:00a.m. to 9:00a.m.
- The I-270 northbound HOV lane operates on a 19-mile stretch from the Capital Beltway to MD 121 (Clarksburg Road). The northbound HOV lane is operational during the evening peak period from 3:30p.m. to 6:30p.m.
- Hours for HOV use are posted on signs along the highway.
- In the case of I-270, general traffic may use these lanes at all other times.
- HOV lanes were constructed on a 7.5-mile stretch of US 50 between the Capital Beltway (I-95 / I-495) and US 301 (Crain Highway) in Prince George’s County and opened in October 2002.
- The US 50 HOV lanes are in operation 24-hours /day, based on safety concerns and engineering judgment. The decision to operate the HOV lane 24-hours a day will prevent confusion on the part of motorists unsure whether the roadway is under HOV restrictions at that time, or alternatively, could be used as a shoulder in the event of an emergency. Twenty-four hour operation simplifies driver understanding, enforcement, and signing.
For information about Carpools and Van Pools please contact Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). Commuter Connections offers free services to those who work in the Metropolitan Washington area. The organization offers ridematching for carpools and vanpools and administers the Guaranteed Ride Home program.
Commuter Connections: 1-800-745-7433
For Further Information please contact the SHA HOV Coordinator at:
Maryland State Highway Administration
Regional and Intermodal Planning Division
Mail Stop C-502
707 N. Calvert Street
Baltimore, MD 21203-0717
410-545-5675 or toll-free at