Beautiful, open lanes of freeway beckon as you stop and go in one of those freak, late-night traffic jams that seem to happen with higher frequency these days.

Those lanes are but a mirage, however, as pretty much only carpoolers and people with electric- and hydrogen-equipped cars can take advantage.

A bill, AB 210, by local state Assemblyman Mike Gatto would change that and open at least some of these treasured roads to the kind of everyday taxpayers who paid for them, namely you.

The proposal passed the Assembly yesterday by a vote of 75-1.

At first the law would apply only to the 134 freeway, from North Hollywood to Pasadena, and to the 210 freeway from Pasadena to Glendora. However, Caltrans would be able to add other HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes to the mix as it sees fit.

The legislation would open those lanes during “non-peak” hours. Gatto:

It's happened to anyone who lives in Southern California. A late-night accident or mysterious slowing clogs the rightmost freeway lanes, while the carpool lane sits empty. AB 210 is a cost-effective way to expand capacity on the state’s highway system and ensure that non-peak-hour travelers can travel to and from home and work and deliver goods and services efficiently.

But aren't HOV lanes designed to punish those who don't get with the program and carpool or buy ultra-low-emissions cars?

Yes. Taxpayers are generally bad people who need to be beaten into law-abiding submission with $500 moving violation tickets, check-engine lights that often have nothing to do with smog, and freeway lanes that aren't really for them.

Credit: Eric Demarcq/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

Credit: Eric Demarcq/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

Gatto notes, however, that sometimes our carrot-and-stick system just doesn't work:

Carpool lanes are intended to increase the capacities of our freeways, reward those who carpool during rush hour, and protect the surrounding environment from harmful exhaust. When motorists are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic at midnight while carpool lanes sit empty, none of those goals are being met.

Here's hoping this thing passes the Senate and gets signed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Let the real driving begin.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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