CHICAGO (CBS) — In one week, Pace buses will begin using the newly-widened shoulders of the Stevenson Expressway.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports, the plan is aimed at reducing congestion and moving Pace passengers more quickly.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Regine Schlesinger reports
The Pace pilot project is the first of its kind in the Chicago area, deemed so important that Gov. Pat Quinn himself is formally unveiling it.
Pace officials say the program will allow Pace buses to use the shoulder of I-55 when traffic slows during rush periods, on most of a stretch of road between Kedzie Avenue and Lemont Road.
Buses still must use the regular left lane between County Line Road and the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) and between Central and Cicero avenues.
Officials hope the new system will ease congestion for a modest cost. By working with existing infrastructure, they say it will improve traffic for cars and buses on the Stevenson.
Spokesman Patrick Wilmot said last month that the rules to govern the new shoulder-riding program are patterned after those used in Cincinnati — a city that has never had an accident blamed on a shoulder-riding bus.
One of the primary rules involves speed. The buses will not be allowed to roar by stopped cars while going 55 miles an hour.
Wilmot said that the buses will be limited to a top speed of 35 miles an hour on shoulders, or 15 miles an hour more than the traffic around them, whichever is slower.
Buses will use shoulders only if traffic is moving slower than 35. Otherwise, they will remain in the main traffic flow.
Despite those restrictions, Wilmot said that Pace expects big increases in ridership on the two routes. Both originate in Plainfield. The 855 bus goes to and from the Loop, terminating at Michigan Avenue and Superior Street. The 755 runs to and from the Near West Side Illinois Medical District. The fare will continue to be $4 each way for adults, with a reduced fare of $2.
Just because buses will be using the Stevenson’s shoulders, don’t be thinking that you can follow in your car or truck. Illinois State Police expect to place extra patrols on I-55 to spot and ticket motorists who do so.