Buses To Use Freeway Shoulder

Photo: Ford, Brad

Buses will start showing up on the shoulders of Interstate 5 on Tuesday Oct. 19 as South Metro Area Regional Transit drivers begin training for the Bus on Shoulder pilot project.

Motorists will see the SMART buses on shoulders at various times of the day Oct. 19-21 and Oct. 27-28. The training will lead to the launch of a one-year pilot project beginning Nov. 1. The project will allow SMART buses to use segments of the shoulders along two miles of I-5 between I-205/I-5 interchange and Southwest Elligsen Road when traffic drops below 35 mph.

Last year, we partnered with the Washington Department of Transportation and C-TRAN to implement a Bus on Shoulder pilot project between Oregon and Washington on I-205 across the Glenn Jackson Bridge. The project launched during the September 2020 closure of the northbound span of the Interstate Bridge for the trunnion replacement and continues today.

Both Bus on Shoulder pilot projects are included in ODOT’s Strategic Action Plan as important outcomes to reduce congestion in the Portland region. The project is part of the Urban Mobility Office (UMO) Comprehensive Congestion Management & Mobility Plan.

Here’s how Bus on Shoulder works:

  • SMART buses may use the I-5 shoulder when the adjacent lane of traffic drops below 35 mph; shoulder use is at the discretion of the bus operator. Weather and other factors can influence the operator’s decision.
  • Buses may then travel up to 15 mph faster than the general purpose lanes but no faster than 35 mph.
  • Buses will merge back into travel lanes before the conclusion of the bus on shoulder segment; buses will not travel through any on- or off-ramps during the pilot.
  • If a bus encounters an obstruction in the shoulder, the bus must merge back into travel lanes at least 1,000 feet before the obstruction or as soon as the obstruction is visible
  • Cars, trucks and all other non-emergency vehicles must remain on the highway travel lanes and stay off the shoulder except in the case of an emergency or to avoid debris.
  • Emergency vehicles, maintenance vehicles, and disabled vehicles take priority on the shoulder.
  • Pedestrians and bicycles on the shoulder have priority over buses as well. Transit vehicles are required to merge back into the travel lanes when encountering a pedestrian or bicycle.

New highway signs, pavement striping, and roadway legends will be installed to inform motorists of the appropriate shoulder uses.

SMART is the only transit provider authorized to use the shoulder in this pilot project. SMART drivers and dispatchers will undertake additional training to ensure safe travel in the corridor. SMART’s bus line 2X operates on I-5, running north and south between the Wilsonville Transit Center and the Tualatin Park and Ride.

In other states, Bus on Shoulder projects have been effective in getting transit vehicles through congestion quickly and safely, creating a more efficient traffic flow, and a more reliable commute. Bus on Shoulder is widely considered a multimodal, low-cost alternative to expanding roadways or dedicating lanes for high occupancy vehicles.

ODOT will closely monitor the pilot project performance. If we find it effective and safe, we may consider making it permanent and consider expanding its use to other transit agencies.

For more information go to the Bus on Shoulder web site.

Source: ODOT

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