HOV lanes have opened going both east and west on I-10 between La Cantera Parkway and Ralph Fair Road (FM 3351). Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

White diamond-shaped patterns marking the far left lanes of Interstate 10 West serve as a signal to drivers that the area’s first high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are now open. 

After three years of construction, HOV lanes have opened going both east and west on I-10 between La Cantera Parkway and Ralph Fair Road (FM 3351), an often congested stretch of roadway in far northwest Bexar County. 

The eastbound HOV lane opened Sept. 24 and the westbound lane around Oct. 18.

A map of the HOV lane on I-10. Credit: Courtesy / VIA

Designed to reduce traffic tie-ups by encouraging ridesharing, HOV lanes are reserved for vehicles with two or more occupants. That includes buses, carpools, and vanpools. Motorcycles, even with only one rider, and emergency response and law enforcement vehicles also can use the lanes.

Houston got its first HOV lane in 1984 and now has six high-occupancy corridors on its highways. Harris County has five of the state’s 10 most congested highways, according to a 2019 report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute

The new HOV lanes on I-10 are the first of three HOV corridors in San Antonio managed by VIA Metropolitan Transit. They are being built in partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and part of a $70 million project to widen the highway and add the HOV lanes. Adding HOV lanes decreases commute times, alleviates congestion, and reduces air pollution – goals of VIA’s “Keep SA Moving” plan, according to the transit agency.

A TxDOT presentation outlining the I-10 West Expansion Project in 2017 projected traffic volumes in that area would reach 146,100 cars per day by 2039.

“Our relationship with TxDOT over the years has been focused on providing enhanced, long-range transit options that help address the transportation needs of a growing population,” said Jeffrey Arndt, VIA president and CEO. “HOV lanes are the latest outcome of that productive partnership and we look forward to further expansion of the HOV system as we work to keep San Antonio moving.”

The second HOV corridor in Bexar County is expected to open in 2023 on U.S. Highway 281, from Loop 1604 to north of Stone Oak Parkway. A third will open from north of Stone Oak Parkway to Borgfeld Road. Upon completion, there will be 14 miles of HOV lanes with one lane each way for a total of 28 lane-miles.

“We are excited to open the second HOV Lane in Bexar County and bring much-needed congestion relief to one of the busiest corridors in the state,” stated Mario Jorge, TxDOT San Antonio District engineer. “The opening of HOV lanes is a culmination of several years of community engagement, planning and construction, and just one of many projects we are delivering to prepare for the future growth of our region.”

To enter the HOV lanes, which are open around the clock, look for signs stating “HOV 2+ Only” and merge into the lane carefully. 

Drivers who want to use the HOV lanes are not required to sign up, acquire special car tags, or pay any fees. Trailer towing, pedestrians, and bicycles are prohibited. The San Antonio Police Department enforces all HOV regulations.

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.