About eight miles of new carpool lanes on Loop 101 opened Sunday night, several months ahead of schedule.
The new HOV lanes — one each northbound and southbound on the interior edges of the freeway — stretch between Via de Ventura in Scottsdale and the Loop 202 interchange near Tempe.
Laura Douglas, an Arizona Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said use of the lanes will be restricted to vehicles carrying two or more people and to motorcycles, buses, and qualifying hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles during peak commuter hours weekdays between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Outside of those times, the HOV lanes will be open to general traffic, she said.
“It acts as an additional lane during those off peak times,” Douglas said. “People just need to realize they are open and they can use them.”
The project is expected to help alleviate some traffic congestion, said Annie DeChance, Scottsdale transportation spokeswoman.
“The new HOV lanes are definitely a benefit to the city of Scottsdale, especially during peak hours,” she said.
Douglas said the lanes originally were scheduled to open in spring 2009 as part of a larger 15-mile HOV lane project stretching further north to Princess Drive. The total project pricetag is $47.4 million, she said.
ADOT officials decided to go ahead and open the southern half of the project, which is ahead of schedule, while the northern half is still slated to open in the spring.
Construction began in September 2007 and continues on the northern segment, Douglas said. The project is part of the Regional Transportation Plan approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.