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Is The Shoulder The New Bus Lane? Planners Think It Might Be

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The shoulder on many local highways — like I-66, pictured here — could be used for buses, say some transportation planners.
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The shoulder on many local highways — like I-66, pictured here — could be used for buses, say some transportation planners.

Expanding highways takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money, so the answer may lie in how to get the most out of the existing asphalt.

When you're stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, the shoulder sure looks tempting. Well, think how much time you'd save if you could ride a bus that gets the shoulder all to itself.

A group of transportation planners at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments has studied two highway corridors in Maryland and one in Virginia, and the first thing the Council's Eric Randall says they learned is that there is a lot to learn about shoulders.

"There's not really good information out there on shoulder conditions. Roadway agencies, contractors go out and put down new pavement, but what are the actual structural conditions of the shoulder, and whether they are ready for buses, is generally not known," he says.

While some highways may not be ready, one agency is ready to give this idea a try — the Virginia Department of Transportation is preparing a Bus-on-Shoulder pilot project for I-66 inside the Beltway next fall.

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