Buses to hit I-275 shoulder when traffic speeds drop below 35 mph

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s bus-on-shoulder program hits the road Sunday, bringing the first program of its kind to Florida.

PSTA’s new highway bus-on-shoulder program is similar to other systems in cities like Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., among others.

Starting June 6, the PSTA program will have buses that drive on the shoulders of Interstate 275 from 5th Avenue to Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg. Each bus will have a special wrapping, showing their status and ability to use the shoulder during peak traffic times.

“This enhancement will help riders safely arrive at their destinations on time, even during heavy traffic,” said PSTA CEO Brad Miller. “Bottom line, this will improve the reliability of travel times for PSTA riders on I-275, especially those on Route 100x and this will make transit more appealing.” 

The bus-on-shoulder project was first proposed in 2019, after a study conducted by the PSTA from 2015 to 2018, showed that the program would increase average transit speeds and improve route performance.

Going forward, if travel speeds drop below 35 mph on I-275, buses will be able to get on the shoulder in the authorized locations to avoid the slower traffic, and be able to drive at a maximum speed of 35 mph on the shoulder, but never higher than 15 mph over general traffic speeds, according to FDOT.

Special traffic signals have already been installed at the on-ramps for 38th Avenue and 54th Avenue for northbound and southbound directions.

To ensure safety and help alert drivers of oncoming buses on shoulder, Bus on Shoulder Signals (BOSS) have been installed at the 38th Avenue and 54th Avenue interchange on-ramps in the northbound and southbound directions. These are similar to traditional signals at an intersection; however, BOSS have a red light only.  When a bus is approaching on the shoulder, the BOSS will turn red, stopping oncoming ramp traffic for a few seconds. Once the bus safely passes the on ramp, the BOSS will go dark (i.e., turn off), and traffic can proceed as normal.  

Statement from PSTA about traffic signal functions.

Officials warn vehicles entering, I-275 via on-ramps will need to yield to the bus if it is riding on the shoulder, according to a release from PSTA.

Private vehicles like school buses, over-the-road-coaches, and other everyday vehicles will not be able to drive on the shoulder.

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