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Carpool lanes on I-77 in S.C. considered

Hoping to get ahead of the problem, Rock Hill officials are exploring carpool lanes on Interstate 77 to combat traffic congestion.

State figures show I-77 funnels 101,000 cars daily through York County, up from 68,000 just a decade ago. Traffic engineers estimate the total will jump to 125,000 cars by 2013.

Carpool lanes, also known as high-occupancy vehicle lanes, are open only to buses and cars carrying more than one person. The goal is to move more people in fewer vehicles. The lanes already are available on I-77 north of Charlotte, but they're not offered anywhere in South Carolina.

The prospect is generating its share of skeptics, including State Rep. Carl Gullick, R-Lake Wylie.

“Looking at all those cars backed up, and then (seeing) vacant HOV lanes, you sit there and wonder: Is this really the best way to deal with it?” Gullick said.

Traffic engineers wouldn't “steal” a lane from existing traffic. Instead, they likely would push the roadway outward onto the shoulders to free up space for a new lane, said Frances Thomas, Rock Hill's planning director. If an HOV lane is built and doesn't appear to work, planners say turning it back into a regular travel lane wouldn't be difficult.

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