Study recommends expanding left-lane ban near Dallas/Fort Worth

| 12/5/2006

A temporary left-lane truck ban on an 18-mile stretch of Interstates 20 and 30 in the Dallas/Fort Worth area could be made permanent and extended to nearly 70 miles, if the findings of a recently released study are implemented.

The study, which was funded by the North Central Texas Council of Governments' Regional Transportation Council, claims traffic on the current 18-mile ban flowed better than when trucks were allowed in all lanes, and that safety in the area had not declined.

If enacted, the proposed ban would begin on I-30 at the I-20 split in Aledo, TX, and continue to Rockwell, TX. On I-20 the ban would begin at the Parker-Tarrant County border and continue to just south of Forney, TX, with some exemptions in an Arlington, TX, business district, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.

Todd Spencer, executive vice president for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said lane restrictions don't fix traffic or safety problems - they create new ones.

"The more you restrict trucks to certain lanes, the greater the congestion you will create in those lanes, in what's sometimes referred to as a 'barrier effect,' " Spencer said. "What you end up with is greater disparity in speeds between the lanes, and not necessarily good disparity, because oftentimes, the center lane becomes the slowest lane."

Spencer said that although the study didn't show a significant increase in congestion or accidents, those problems are likely to multiply as drivers get used to the left-lane ban. When that happens, he said, bad driving habits - such as speeding or unsafe lane changes - will increase significantly.

"In the short term, they might be lucky and there might not be increased accidents. But in the longer term, as more vehicles use the road and more vehicles become accustomed to using the road, the likelihood of increased accidents will increase," Spencer said.

If enacted, the plan also calls for other interstates and U.S. highways in the area - including I-35, I-45 and U.S. 75 - to add lane restrictions once pending road improvements are finished.

- By Aaron Ladage, staff editor