El Paso considers forcing trucks into right lane

| Wednesday, January 22, 2003

El Paso is considering joining the list of Texas cities restricting tractor-trailers to the far right lanes of interstates, the El Paso Times reported Jan. 21.

The City Council in El Paso, which sits along the Rio Grande River on the Mexican border, was scheduled to vote Jan. 21 on whether to start the ball rolling on an ordinance by scheduling a public hearing Feb. 4.

A 1997 state law authorizes cities to restrict truckers from the fast lane of major highways during peak travel hours, The Associated Press reported.

Houston was the first city in the state to implement the rule, acting in September 2000 to restrict lanes on an eight-mile stretch of I-10, roughly from I-610 to Sam Houston Parkway. Trucks were ordered to stay out of the far left lane from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, except when passing other vehicles.

San Antonio is considering a six-month pilot program to restrict truckdrivers to the slow lane on U.S. Highway 90 and I-10, a stretch of almost 20 miles inside the city's Loop 410, the San Antonio Express-News reported. That test, if approved, would occur this summer.

A Texas Transportation Institute study conducted after Houston implemented the change found that accidents decreased 68 percent on that portion of I-10 over a nine-month period, with no deaths in the crashes that did occur. Houston officials then decided to expand the lane restrictions to portions of I-45 and State Highway 225.

The El Paso proposal would order tractor-trailers to use only the two right lanes from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays on I-10 from Mesa Street to Zaragoza Road, according to city documents quoted by the El Paso newspaper. That section of I-10 runs from the center of the city roughly 18 miles to the southeast suburbs.

If El Paso decides to move forward, its ordinance would also require study and approval by the Texas Department of Transportation and another council vote. The city rejected a similar restriction five years ago.

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