The Alexandria City Council voted unanimously last night to loosen the requirements for using car-pool lanes on U.S. Rte. 1 through the city amid widespread complaints that the new lanes are creating massive traffic jams.

Council members voted to allow cars carrying only two passengers to use the HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on the highway beginning next Tuesday, down from the current minimum of three passengers. The change will affect not only Alexandria residents, but a substantial number of Fairfax County motorists who drive through the city to jobs in Washington.

The rush hour HOV restrictions went into effect this month.

Mayor James P. Moran and several radio traffic reporters said the lanes are underused and that the resulting reduction in highway capacity has added as much as a half-hour to the drives of some Fairfax commuters.

"The situation now is intolerable," Moran said. "People are talking about boycotting Alexandria and Alexandria merchants to make us aware" of the problem.

But Alexandria Transportation Director Dayton Cook, who supported the HOV lanes, said the inconvenience is necessary to encourage people to use car pools. He also said that some recent traffic difficulties have been caused by problems in the city's computerized traffic signal system.

"The solution of our growth problems can only be in car pools," Cook said. "We said car pools would not come overnight. We said if you can't stick it out {when people protest}, don't put car pools in in the first place."

Council members decided to relax the restrictions in an effort to help solve current problems. They also decided to hold a public hearing sometime next month to determine whether the HOV rules should be scrapped altogether.

Staff writer Virginia Mansfield contributed to this report.