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updated: 10/13/2011 7:06 PM

Pace express buses to begin riding the shoulder on I-55

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Pace express buses caught in gridlock on the Stevenson Expressway (I-55) in rush hour now have a way out.

Starting in mid-November, drivers of Routes 755 and 855 can shift over to the shoulder to get their passengers to work or school on time.

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Legislation allowing the express buses to ride the shoulder was signed this year. It's a safe way to ensure traffic doesn't throw the express buses off their schedules, Pace officials said at a meeting Wednesday.

Test runs are being conducted and the new program will kick off Nov. 14. Buses will use the inside shoulder during high traffic times on a 15-mile stretch of I-55 between I-355 and Central Avenue in Chicago.

The changes won't affect the $4 fare. Currently, Routes 755 and 855 operate between the southwest suburbs and Chicago. Suburban stops with free parking lots are at Bolingbrook, Romeoville and Plainfield. Route 755 ends at the Illinois Medical District near the University of Illinois at Chicago and Route 855 ends in the Loop.

The top speed for buses is 35 mph or 15 mph above the speed of vehicles in the adjacent lanes, depending on which is less.

"It's a low-cost alternative to bus rapid transit," Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot said. Bus rapid transit requires dedicated lanes for express buses.

Buses on shoulders have been used successfully in other cities including Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Miami.

Illinois State Police are involved in the project and will be monitoring traffic to prevent any copy cats who want a quick way out of bumper-to-bumper traffic.

For more information, contact Pacebus.com.

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