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EDITORIAL: NDOT’s HOV fiasco is on life support

After almost two decades of failure, Nevada’s experiment with high-occupancy vehicle lanes may finally be on life support. Thank Lt. Gov. Stavros Anthony for force-feeding state road officials a heap of common sense.

Last week, the Nevada Department of Transportation Board of Directors, which includes the lieutenant governor and Gov. Joe Lombardo, voted unanimously to open HOV lanes to all drivers during most hours of the day. They also moved forward with a study that should allow the state to eliminate the designation entirely within two years.

The move reverses nearly 20 years of NDOT policy that saw the agency spend billions on highway improvements in Southern Nevada only then to declare that certain newly built lanes, ramps and flyovers would be off limits to solo drivers. The stated goal was to improve area air quality by encouraging commuters to carpool, but the rules were nothing more than green virtue-signaling at the expense of taxpayers.

At no point did agency officials produce evidence that the HOV features were working as intended and pushing commuters to double-up. Instead, many such lanes were typically filled with scofflaws who knew the police had higher priorities. Yet NDOT continued to expand the HOV network in recent years and even imposed 24/7 restrictions under the assertion that limiting access to new freeway capacity would ease congestion in the general purpose lanes. Never mind that simply opening all lanes and highway features to all drivers would be a more efficient means of improving traffic flow.

The proposal approved last week will convert the entire 20-mile HOV network to general purpose use for all hours except 6 to 8 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. New projects, including the Tropicana interchange overhaul and the addition of a half-interchange at Interstate 15 and Harmon Avenue will fall under the new policy.

Lt. Gov. Anthony had hoped to “get rid of the HOV lanes,” but federal officials claim that will require an environmental impact statement. Rather than challenge that assertion — federal law didn’t require a study to impose the policy, nor does it stand in the way of drastically curtailing the HOV hours — the NDOT board opted to jump through the hoops with the goal of ultimately ending the restrictions.

The HOV policy was imposed arbitrarily and did nothing to improve air quality, increase car-pooling or smooth daily travels for local drivers. The new rules will help ensure that Southern Nevada motorists have access to the highway improvements that their tax dollars helped fund. That’s a big step forward, and the lieutenant governor deserves credit for getting it done.

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