The Texas
Highway Man

Home Miscellany What's new About me Contact
San Antonio Area Freeway System
HOV Lanes

This page last updated February 29, 2024

Transportation planners — as well as many citizens — have realized that simply adding new general-purpose lanes in major corridors is only a short-term solution to traffic congestion. Before long, the new lanes are just as congested as before and there's little or no room to add even more lanes. Instead, transportation projects need to focus on moving people, not just vehicles. High-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are one way to do so and have been successfully used in many cities in the United States and abroad.

Furthermore, HOV lanes provide a clear lane for emergency vehicles, and they can help to reduce emissions, which is an important consideration as Bexar County is in non-compliance with federal air quality standards.

Finally, HOV lanes help to "future-proof" a corridor by building-in lanes today that can be used in the future for new transportation options such as autonomous vehicles.

Local HOV lane history
With the removal of proposed toll lanes from planned expansion projects on both I‑10 West and US 281 North, planners realized an opportunity to include San Antonio's first HOV lanes in those projects, with these two locations serving as "starter" HOV projects for a larger planned system of nearly 70 miles.

HOV lanes were also added to the Loop 1604 and I‑35 expansions after toll lanes were scrapped on those projects.

The region's first HOV lane opened on September 26th, 2020 on eastbound I‑10 from Ralph Fair Rd. to La Cantera Pkwy. With that opening, San Antonio joined Houston and Dallas as Texas cities with HOV lanes. Since then, HOV lanes have also opened on westbound I‑10 from La Cantera Pkwy. to Ralph Fair Rd., and on US 281 in both directions between Evans Rd. and Borgfeld Dr.

While TxDOT initially builds the HOV lanes, VIA operates them.



ADVERTISEMENT




Current HOV lanes

HOV lane map

Map of current and planned HOV lanes

Currently, there are HOV lanes on I‑10 West between La Cantera Pkwy. and Ralph Fair Rd., and on US 281 from Evans Rd. to Borgfeld Dr. In both cases, there is one HOV lane in each direction that is buffer-separated from the adjacent general-purpose mainlanes. Below is the typical cross-section of I‑10 and US 281 with HOV lanes (note that the number of mainlanes varies on US 281.)

I-10 cross-section with HOV lanes

Typical cross-section of freeway with HOV lanes

How to use the HOV lanes
To use the HOV lanes, you must have two or more people ("2+") in your vehicle including the driver. Children count toward this occupancy requirement. (A bill filed in the 2023 legislative session to specifically count unborn fetuses as a passenger for the purpose of using an HOV lane died in committee.) No special tags or permits are required, and the HOV lanes are toll-free.

Motorcycles are also allowed to use the HOV lanes even with just the driver solo and no additional passengers. Vehicles hauling trailers are prohibited. While some other cities allow electric or hybrid vehicles to use HOV lanes, no exemptions for those have been approved locally, so the regular occupancy requirements apply.

The HOV lanes are on the inside lane next to the center barrier. They are separated from the main traffic lanes by a buffer area marked by solid white lines which you should not cross. Instead, you should enter or exit the HOV lanes at either end or at designated intermediate entry/egress points. At those locations, the HOV lane buffer will change to a broken white line indicating where you can enter or exit the lane.

HOV entrance signTo enter the HOV lane, look for the HOV lane entrance signs overhead — like the one shown here — that indicate where you can enter the lane. If you're entering at an intermediate access point, be sure to check for traffic already in the HOV lane before merging into it. If you are already in the HOV lane, be sure to watch for vehicles entering the lane and be prepared to give them some room to safely merge.

To leave the HOV lane, carefully merge to the right at the egress location. Be sure to plan ahead for your exit and only leave the HOV lane at the designated locations. If you're in the left mainlane at an HOV lane exit, be sure to watch for vehicles merging into your lane from the HOV lane and be prepared to give them some room to safely merge.

The US 281 HOV lane users can access the Stone Oak Park & Ride directly via an exit and overpass from the HOV lane, and will eventually also be able to access the HOV lane directly from the Stone Oak Park & Ride via an overpass from the garage's upper level. This connection is also used by buses traveling to and from the Park & Ride. (Currently, access to the Park & Ride is limited to traffic using the northbound HOV lane. Work to open the southbound ramp is underway.)

The HOV lanes are in operation 24 hours a day. Use of the HOV lane without the required occupancy, or unsafe crossing of the buffer area, can result in a citation.

All signage pertaining to the HOV lane has "HOV" with the black and white diamond symbol and will typically be positioned to the left. Some HOV-related signage is green but has a black and white HOV tab at the top to indicate that it pertains to the HOV lane, such as the example above.

For more information, see the informational video from VIA below.

VIA HOV informational video



More HOV lane information from VIA is at https://www.viainfo.net/hov


Future HOV lanes

HOV lanes are now under construction on Loop 1604 from Bandera Rd. to Redland Rd., and on I‑35 North from Rittiman Rd. to the Guadalupe county line; the I‑35 HOV lanes will be included on the new upper level being built. Additionally, HOV lanes are included in the additional future expansion of I‑35 from the Bexar county line to FM 1103, on Loop 1604 from Redland Rd. to I‑35, and a future expansion project on I‑10 that will extend the existing HOV lanes there all the way to SH 46 in Boerne.

When those projects are done, there will be about 70 miles of HOV lanes in the San Antonio area. Furthermore, planners are studying if and how to continue the I‑10 and US 281 HOV lanes inside Loop 1604. Planners in the 1980s actually included provisions in the double-decked sections of I‑10 downtown for a possible future HOV lane.

Below are typical cross-sections for the currently planned HOV lanes in the various corridors.



Loop 1604
Bandera Rd.
to I‑35 North
— AND — I-35
FM 3009
to FM 1103
Cross-section


I-35
Rittiman Rd. to FM 3009

Cross-section

FAQ


Other sites of interest

VIA - HOV lanes
https://www.viainfo.net/hov
TxDOT - Managed lanes
https://www.txdot.gov/discover/express-toll-hov-lanes/managed-lanes.html