SANTA ANA ( — A major change is coming to the carpool lanes in Orange County.

Soon, drivers will be able to enter and exit the carpool lanes at any time, rather than only at designated stretches without double-yellow lines. The changes, already in effect on a handful of the county’s freeways, will take place over the next seven years on other freeways in the county.

On Tuesday, CBS2’s Michele Gile reported that the so-called “continuous access” is getting high marks from both commuters and the California Highway Patrol.

“I think it’s a good idea. You can get in and get out anytime you want,” said driver Kap Wimalartna.

The double-yellow lines have been replaced by broken white lines along sections of five freeways, allowing drivers to merge in and out with no restrictions. Officials said an experiment on the 22 Freeway in central Orange County has worked and will be expanded to all 267 miles of carpool lanes in the county.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said driver Paul Yanes. “It prevents that fact of having to go further than what is really necessary. So you could just pretty much exit more often, as needed.”

No more double-yellow lines will mean no more hefty fines for crossing them in a mad-dash to exit the freeway. Officers are seeing safer roads as a result, and less congestion.

“The traffic seems to be flowing much better,” said Tom Joy of the CHP. “Seeing a lot less traffic accidents as a result of those unsafe lane changes, cutting in and out of the carpool lane.”

The 57 Freeway between Katella and the 91 will be converted this January, with plans to restripe the 5 between Avenida Pico and Pacific Coast Highway on deck in 2017. The 5 will be converted in 2018 between the 57 and Beach Boulevard, and the 405 will be restriped in 2021.

It’s a change that Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who also sits on the county transportation board, said he has been seeking for years.

“I brought this proposal up, and CalTrans hated the idea,” he said. “They were adamant that we shouldn’t make the changes. But over time, as universities like Berkeley studied the fact that it’s safe, it started to convince CalTrans and other public agencies, like OCTA, that we should actually make it continuous.”

CalTrans said it has no plan to make a similar change in Los Angeles County, telling Gile that in some cases research has shown continuous access lanes accommodate fewer vehicles. In Riverside County, however, an effort to convert the lanes is also in the works.


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