Why can’t we use those lanes?

I was stuck in the usual Thursday-afternoons-during-the-summer traffic nastiness on my way home from work today. A honk from the car in the lane next to me grabbed my attention. I looked over, and the driver clearly wanted to talk with me. I paused my podcast, and rolled down my window.

“I’m from out of town. Why can’t we drive in those lanes?” he asked, pointing at the traffic flying by in the HOV lanes.

I simplified things and replied, “Those are for car pooling.”

“Oh,” he acknowledged. “So we have to stay in this all the way to Fredericksburg?” (Fredericksburg was still a good 20 miles south. We were easily averaging 15 miles an hour at this point– stop and go.)

“Yes, though the car pool lanes don’t go nearly that far.” I was trying to console him, as if to say it wouldn’t be all that great in the HOV lanes since they ended soon.

“Oh,” he acknowledged again. “So this should clear out as soon as those lanes merge, right?”

Who was I to squelch that glimmer of hope I heard in his question? “Sure, it should clear up a bit.” What else would you expect when 5 lanes of traffic consolidate into 3?! This didn’t seem like the type of discussion where I should lay out all the possible reasons traffic could easily get worse. And truthfully, traffic does generally pick up a bit after that merge due to limited on ramps for a while.

“Probably in 10 miles or so?” he wondered.

“Not nearly that long. Only a couple more miles.”

And with that, the conversation was over. I was glad the traffic did increase in speed a bit after the merge, so I didn’t appear to be a complete liar.  Only on I-95 do you have a chance to verbally welcome visitors to your state while commuting home.

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