There are two things in Houston which occur regularly but still manage to be unpredictable— the rain and the traffic. With clouds looming over Independence Day weekend, Houstonians may not be able to avoid the rain, but you may be able to cut 15 minutes (or more) off of a trip to Galveston by taking the HOV lane on I-45 through the worst of Houston traffic.
That may be easier said than done, however. For most Houstonians, this HOV lane is the most confusing, as there are no simple exit and entry points and, once on the main freeway, you can't shift over onto the HOV lane, like you can on the Katy Freeway.
But if you follow these recommendations, you can make the trip to Galveston — or at least the 15.5 miles from downtown to just past Beltway 8 where the HOV ends at Dixie Farm Road— a little bit easier.
Do you qualify?
You can't sail down this HOV lane alone. But if you have another passenger you're good to go. Vehicles carrying two or more passengers can use the I-45 South HOV lane every weekend this summer.
What are the times?
On holidays (like July 4th), the lane will operate on the Saturday schedule — the southbound HOV lane headed to Galveston on I-45 will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the northbound HOV back into Houston will be open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. On Sundays, the HOV operates only from Galveston into Houston from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m.
Where do you find it?
This is the trickiest part, as you can only enter the HOV lane from designated entry and exit points. Probably the easiest way when headed to Galveston is to enter the HOV lane near its inception at Pierce Street in downtown Houston. Jerome Gray, METRO's senior press officer, suggests that drivers enter from a ramp located on Pierce Street just before Dowling.
Another common entry point is the Eastwood Transit Center. To access it, take the Lockwood Drive exit and follow the traffic signs to enter the HOV. Other entry points include one near the Monroe Street Park & Ride and another at the Fuqua and South Point Park & Rides. A full list of HOV entrances, including diagrams, is available on the Metro website.
On the return from Galveston, you have to follow an exit off of Dixie Farm Road to get onto the HOV lane.
Confusing? A little. But those who do it regularly say it's worth the effort