A rendering of the proposed bus lane on Madison in the Loop. (Credit: CTA)

A rendering of the proposed bus lane on Madison in the Loop. (Credit: CTA)

CHICAGO (CBS) — Faster bus service is coming to the heavily-traveled corridor linking Navy Pier and Michigan Avenue with the West Loop Metra terminals. Wednesday, CTA and the Chicago Dept. of Transportation unveiled plans for the service, which is expected to shave as much as nine minutes off the commuting time.

A total of 15 CTA bus routes will utilize the new bus-only and bus-priority lanes when the project is completed next year, on Washington linking Michigan with Canal Street, and on Madison, linking Michigan with Clinton Street.

Artists’ renderings released by the two agencies show westbound Madison similar to the current configuration, but with curbside bus-boarding platforms. CTA spokesman Brian Steele said the existing protected bicycle lane would be moved to Randolph Street.

On eastbound Washington, which is five feet wider than Madison, a bus-only lane will service island bus-boarding platforms. The bus lane and boarding platforms will protect a bicycle lane, against the south curb. Two lanes will remain for auto and truck traffic.

Steele said CTA expects more than 1,700 buses to use the corridor each weekday, carrying nearly half of the commuters traveling on those routes.

The lines will pass Ogilvie Transportation Center and will terminate just south of Union Station, on a site currently occupied by a parking lot, in a new off-street Transportation Center.

Bus Rapid Transit is touted by federal officials as a low-cost alternative to building new ‘L’ or streetcar lines. Some of the principles of Bus Rapid Transit are being tested by CTA on its J14/Jeffrey Jump express route. Steele said CTA expects to announce plans for two additional Bus Rapid Transit corridors, along Ashland and Western Avenues, by late summer.

CDOT is constructing and managing the Central Loop project, which is being financed by a $24.6 million Federal Transit Administration grant and $7.3 million in local Tax Increment Financing funds. CTA will manage the other projects.