Officials with the North Carolina Department of Transportation said Tuesday they're teaming up with Triangle Transit for a "Bus on Shoulders System" along portions of I-40 in Durham County beginning on July 16.
Also known by the acronym "BOSS" - the plan will allow authorized transit buses with trained drivers to move into the shoulders of selected freeways to get around congestion and stay on schedule.
"We're only using a section between NC 147, Page Road area, out to 15-501. We know that we have routine buses that go between Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill using that route," explained NCDOT engineer Battle Whitley.
The Triangle Transit routes affected will be the CRX, Route 700, Route 800, and Shuttle 42.
I-40 was picked for the pilot program for a reason.
"We know that we have sufficient shoulder width. We know that we have plenty of clearance for bridges. We know that we can accommodate the buses in that area, so we want to use that first," said Whitley.
Coincidentally, the announcement came the day after a major chain reaction crash on I-40 during Monday's afternoon rush hour that tied up traffic for hours. Officials said the BOSS system could potentially mean commuters who take the bus would get home on time in similar situations.
"That is our hope, that this will encourage more people to use more transit," said Whitley.
The DOT will install signs along the route of the pilot program so drivers know when there may be buses on the shoulder during congestion. Car drivers will not be allowed to use shoulders to get around jams.
"As they get used to, and the more they gain knowledge about the Bus On Shoulder programs, then everybody will be like second nature," offered Triangle Transit driver Tammy Romain who's been trained in the program.
Romain will help train other drivers to navigate shoulders safely. When traffic is moving at 35 mph or less, buses will be allowed to drive up to 15 mph faster, but no faster than 35.