Sen. Kissel tells WFSB Channel 3 about his proposal to ease gridlock on the highway

February 21, 2013

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – Dozens of bills could change the way people drive in Connecticut and public debate by state lawmakers and citizens began on all of them Wednesday.

The proposed transportation laws range from requiring eye exams for elderly drivers to opening HOV lanes to all traffic during rush hour.

“A lot of times you get on the highway and it’s packed,” said one unidentified driver. “But the HOV lane is empty.”

The HOV, or high occupancy lane, was designed to get people to start carpooling to get vehicles moving along at a quicker pace.

Opening the lane to all traffic during rush would defeat the purpose of the lane.

Sen. John Kissel, representing northern Connecticut, said he’s usually one of the people sitting in traffic in and around Hartford during rush hour while the HOV lane is empty. He said that’s why he wants the lane opened to all traffic between 4 and 6 p.m., and possibly the morning commute.

Channel 3’s Kim Lucey asked Kissel, “If you’re going to have people in the HOV lanes during rush hour, why have them at all?”

He responded, “I was never too keen on the HOV experiment at all. I think they were going to require three people (in the car) and now it’s down to two. Even if you drive during the day, it’s highly underutilized.”

He said he’d be willing to take part in a pilot program just on Interstate 91 north and south for a few months, and all diamond-marked lanes would be open to all traffic between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Kissel said then the state may be able to try and eliminate the lanes altogether.

“It’s been somewhat of a failed experiment and an extremely costly experiment, we built the roads in anticipation there would be a lot more commuter traffic,” Kissel said. “It just hasn’t materialized, so when do we say give up the ghost and try something different?”

Opponents said the whole point is to encourage drivers to carpool. Ride-Share operates Connecticut’s Easy Street program and said putting more cars in the HOV lane sends the wrong message.

“We’re actually thinking it could create more single occupant vehicles on the road,” said Mike Lenkiewicz of RideShare. “So it’s just really bad policy in our view.”

Some other controversial bills discussed includes one that would require every driver in the state to undergo CPR training, and another that would require safety inspections for vehicles over 100,000 miles.

Another bill would require anyone over the age of 65 to take a mandatory eye exam.

The transportation board will hold another public hearing, which is scheduled for Monday, before lawmakers decide which of these bills to move forward.

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