CHICAGO – August 11, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation to allow the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and Pace to begin a pilot program to allow commuter buses to drive on the shoulders of the Stevenson Expressway (Interstate 55) during rush hour congestion. The new law will reduce travel times through the busy I-55 corridor, improve the reliability of bus schedules and help the environment by encouraging more motorists to use mass transit.
“This innovative transportation pilot program will use existing resources to benefit both drivers and transit riders,” Governor Quinn said. “By easing congesting and improving public transportation we can increase the quality of life for people throughout the region.”
House Bill 1884, sponsored by Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) and Sen. Maggie Crotty (D-Oak Forest) allows buses on the shoulders of designated highways. This fall, IDOT, the RTA and Pace will launch a two-year program to allow the existing Pace routes 755 and 855, which connect the southwest suburbs, downtown Chicago and the Illinois Medical District, to operate on the Stevenson Expressway’s inside shoulders between Interstate 355 and Kedzie Avenue during the inbound morning and outbound afternoon commuting times. The costs are covered by a $1.5 million federal grant for projects that improve air quality.
“Idle buses can cost commuters time and money and this program aims to change that,” Rep. Rita said. “By allowing transit buses to safely ride on roadway shoulders in designated areas, we are taking steps toward improving public transportation, saving the state money and making sure Illinois residents reach their destinations on time.”
The expressway shoulders will only be available when traffic is slower than 35 mph. Buses will be restricted to traveling no more than 15 mph over the top traffic speed in the mainline lanes, never greater than 35 mph. Riding on the shoulders will be prohibited if they are being used for snow removal, vehicle breakdowns, traffic stops or maintenance. After two years, the program will be evaluated to measure the impact on safety and overall highway and transit operations.
The pilot program is made possible by an ongoing project to improve the shoulders and resurface the Stevenson Expressway. The project, funded through Governor Quinn’s Illinois Jobs Now! capital program, includes adding the appropriate signs and lane markings to permit buses in the shoulders.
“We look forward to working with our partners at the RTA and Pace to make this vision a reality,” said Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider. “Allowing buses on shoulders is a green solution to maximizing the capacity of our highways.”