Buses will be able to bypass traffic on Interstate 275 to transport riders to and from downtown St. Pete and Tampa.
On Friday, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority celebrated the kickoff of the bus-on-shoulder project, which is the first time a bus will be able to ride on the shoulder of an interstate in Florida.
“By having our buses use the shoulder when there’s congestion on the interstate, this will be able to keep our buses on schedule and that will increase reliability for our riders,” PSTA CEO Brad Miller said during the celebration at 22nd Avenue North. “We are so grateful that Pinellas County was chosen as the pilot for this option.”
Starting Sunday, the buses will be able to ride on the shoulders along I-275 from 5th Avenue North to Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg as part of Route 100x. The route is an express service connecting to destinations such as the Gateway Mall and Marion Transit Station in downtown Tampa.
When travel speeds on I-275 fall below 35 miles per hour, the PSTA bus driver will have the option to enter the outside shoulder in authorized locations. The bus will travel at a maximum speed of 35 mph.
The Florida Department of Transportation has been working on the nearly $5 million project for six years with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. The Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority is also a partner in the project.
“We’ve been getting inquires [from partners in other districts] of how they can build this into their system,” FDOT District Seven Secretary David Gwynn said at the event.
Other metros outside of St. Pete such as Chicago, Minneapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina have bus-on-shoulder options.
Shoulders on interstates are typically used for safety measures or to avoid crashes.
“Why not use these shoulders, that at many times sit empty, for a transit opportunity?” Gwynn said.
There are traffic signals installed to alert drivers when a bus is planning to enter a shoulder; signals have also been installed on the 38th Avenue and the 54th Avenue interchange on-ramps in the northbound and southbound directions.
The shoulders can still be used for emergencies.