Governor Pat Quinn signed off on a bill Thursday that will allow the Illinois Department of Transportation, the Regional Transportation Authority and Pace to authorize commuter buses to drive on the shoulders of the Stevenson Expressway.
The pilot program is expected to reduce travel times through the Interstate 55 corridor, improve bus schedule reliability and encourage people to take advantage of public transportation.
"This innovative transportation pilot program will use existing resources to benefit both drivers and transit riders," Quinn said in a statement. "By easing congesting and improving public transportation we can increase the quality of life for people throughout the region."
The two-year program will launch this fall, allowing 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 program does come with some limitations. The shoulders will only be available to buses when traffic is going slower than 35 miles per hour, and they are restricted to traveling no more than 15 miles per hour over the top speed in the main lanes. Buses will not be able to drive faster than 35 miles per hour at any time.
The shoulders will also be off limits if they are already being used for snow removal, vehicle breakdowns, traffic stops or during maintenance.
The costs of the project are covered by a $1.5 million federal grant for projects that improve air quality.