A bill introduced last month in the Illinois General Assembly would create a five-year pilot program to test if opening up shoulder lanes on state highways would increase school bus efficiency during school activity trips.
Aptly named the School Bus On-The-Shoulder Pilot Program Act, HB 6282 is the latest attempt to pass a statewide ordinance that frees up school buses stuck in traffic. Five years ago, a similar law was passed that allowed the Pace Suburban Bus Service was allowed to utilize the shoulder on I-55, the Stevenson Expressway, in Chicagoland, with the result being a 20-percent increase in on-time arrivals.
On its website, Pace says shoulder riding is one of the most affordable options for implementing rapid bus service on expressways and tollways because it is less expensive to modify shoulders than it is to construct new roadways.
“Bus service on bus-only shoulders increases the reliability and attractiveness of public transportation,” the site adds.
Other transit agencies have since added on-the-shoulder service in conjunction with the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The School Bus On-The-Shoulder Pilot Program, meanwhile, would allow Secretary of State Jesse White’s office to work with the State Police and IDOT to develop rules on the selection of highways participating in the program, the hours school buses could use the shoulder and the placement of related signage.
Two years after the start of the program, White’s office would owe a report to the General Assembly that details the program's findings.
However, several local school districts and bus companies have already said they will not use the right shoulder if a law is passed, citing safety concerns.
"Our bus is driving down the shoulder and all of a sudden someone whips right out in front of us, we have an issue. Are we at fault because we were on the shoulder? Even though we're OK because we hit someone or someone hit us. Then the challenge is our safety procedures go into place absolutely as they should. We're checking out every child at the hospital," said Dr. Lance Thurman, superintendent of Riverton School District, in an interview with Fox Illinois.
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