IL: Pace Touts Bus-Only Shoulders on Stevenson; Pilot Program Will Run During Rush Hours

Imagine a commute to work in which it is OK to bypass traffic jams by driving on the shoulder of the expressway - one in which the cops would turn a blind eye to you using the lane normally reserved for emergency vehicles.

Sound like a dream? If you take the Stevenson Expressway to get to work, it'll be reality starting Monday, thanks to a new Pace program, "Bus on Shoulder." The two-year pilot program allows Pace buses to fight rush hour traffic on the Stevenson Expressway by driving on its shoulders.

The bus routes start in Plainfield with stops in Romeoville, Bolingbrook and Burr Ridge, and round-trip tickets cost $8 - about a third of what it costs to park in a downtown garage. Each stop in the suburbs offers free parking. The Illinois Department of Transportation literally smoothed the way for the buses by smoothing shoulder pavement.

A brief test ride for the media on Monday found that driving down the shoulder was as smooth as the normal lanes. Bus driver Vicky Thomas said "it was comfortable" driving on the shoulder. "The lane is wide enough. Actually, in some areas, it's wider than the [normal] lanes," she said.

Pace Chairman Richard Kwasneski said the buses "are another option to get from the suburbs into the city." He expects the commute to be trimmed by 15 minutes in each direction. If the program succeeds, it could expand to the Tri-State Tollway and other highways, Gov. Pat Quinn said.

Buses will be allowed to ride on selected shoulders from 5 to 9 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Shoulders from Kedzie Avenue to Cicero Avenue, Central Avenue to Interstate 294, and County Line Road to Interstate 355 are designated for bus use. That's a total of 14 miles. Snow and stalled vehicles might keep buses off the shoulders at times.

Oh, and if any motorists get the idea of shaving their commuting time by following buses, consider yourself warned: State police will be looking for you, said Marva Boyd, Illinois Department of Transportation chief of staff.

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