Jennifer McCord 703-259-1779
Christine Rodrigo, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission 703-580-6127
March 10, 2015
BUSES TO USE I-66 SHOULDER INSIDE THE BELTWAY
Pilot aims to improve reliability for riders; drivers asked to be aware of buses merging
FAIRFAX—On March 23, the Virginia Department of Transportation will launch an important pilot program on portions of I-66 inside the Beltway, allowing authorized commuter buses, beginning with the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC)’s OmniRide service, to use the shoulder to bypass congestion.
“This is a low-cost plan with many benefits—it helps buses maintain their schedules, it provides a more reliable trip for riders, and ultimately moves more people through congested areas,” said Rahul Trivedi, P.E., VDOT’s project manager for the pilot.
Under the pilot, when authorized bus operators encounter traffic speeds below 35 miles per hour, they may move to the shoulder at certain designated locations and travel on the shoulder at a maximum speed of 25 mph. Only bus operators who have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the conditions of use with VDOT are authorized to use the shoulders.
In total, the pilot includes about 6.3 miles of shoulder along I-66, and connects to the 1.3-mile segment that buses already use on the Dulles Connector Road. The new segments where buses may use the shoulder include:
- Extension of the existing shoulder use on the eastbound Dulles Connector Road where it ends at the West Falls Church Metro station to the merge onto eastbound I-66 near the Great Falls Street overpass
- Eastbound I-66 from the US 29 overpass near Spout Run Parkway to N. Quinn Street
- Westbound I-66 from beyond the Rosslyn Tunnel (N. Nash Street) to the US 29 overpass near Spout Run Parkway
- Westbound I-66 from the N. Quincy Street underpass to the auxiliary lane beyond North Fairfax Drive
It will be most important for drivers, Trivedi says, to be aware of buses traveling and merging next to the right lane. “While we’ve had buses on the Dulles Connector shoulder for years, this is new for drivers on I-66,” says Trivedi. “We are asking that drivers be aware of the new signs that show where buses travel, and to please give buses room to merge back into the main lanes when needed.” Buses will merge into the main travel lanes at the end of their permitted segments, and also if a stranded vehicle or incident requires the shoulder.
While PRTC’s OmniRide buses will be the first to begin using the I-66 shoulder, VDOT is working toward agreements with other area transit operators to also participate in the shoulder-use pilot in the near future.
The pilot is very similar to the program that has been in place on the Dulles Connector Road since 2000. Virginia is modeling its programs on states such as Minnesota, where bus-on-shoulder operations began in the 1990s, and about 300 shoulder miles are now permitted for bus use.
To create the I-66 pilot, VDOT performed test rides with bus operators to identify segments of the interstate that were ideal for buses to use safely. Crews identified needed improvements last year and strengthened and widened shoulders where needed, trimmed trees, relocated mile marker signs and placed new signs indicating where authorized buses may ride the shoulder.
The pilot will be evaluated after about a year, Trivedi said, through surveys of bus operators, riders, VDOT operations staff and police.
Improvements made to launch the I-66 bus-on-shoulder pilot cost about $600,000.
More details on the I-66 bus-on-shoulder pilot are available in these frequently asked questions.
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