In the 1990s, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes were operational on three New Jersey roadways. Today, they exist on only one.

HOV Lanes
HOV Lanes (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

With the goal of easing traffic congestion, encouraging carpooling and reducing air pollution, HOV lanes were established on Interstate 80 in 1994, the New Jersey Turnpike in 1996 and Interstate 287 in 1998.

In 1998, the lanes were terminated on I-287 and I-80 after a study found them ineffective.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) said three criteria was set for what the HOV lanes had to achieve - encourage carpooling, carry at least 700 vehicles per hour and reduce or at least maintain current congestion levels.

"It was determined that neither of the roads, I-80 or 287 met those criteria, so the HOV lanes were eliminated in November of 1998," said Kevin Israel, spokesman with the DOT.

At one point, state officials were looking at adding HOV lanes on additional state roadways, but that fell through after the study was released.

Israel said some opposed the elimination of the lanes, arguing that they helped the environment by reducing air pollution caused from vehicles, however, even those benefits were determined to be minimal, if any.

"It was tried, some people thought it really helped, but when we really looked at it and spent the time, we realized it was not beneficial as we thought it would be," Israel said.

With cars being more energy and fuel efficient now than they were 20 years ago,   pollution levels have been kept lower. In fact, today's air pollution levels are not as bad as projected when the HOV lanes were being utilized.

"The HOV lanes just weren't the silver bullet that folks had hoped they were," Israel said.

HOV lanes are still used on the New Jersey Turnpike, during morning and afternoon peak periods only between exits 11 and 14.

A spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority said enforcement of the HOV lane rules, which specify three or more people must be in a vehicle traveling in an HOV lane, may be suspended if there are traffic delays due to an accident or other circumstances.



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