If you see a bus on the shoulder of Interstate 35 in Johnson County this week, don’t worry that it might be disabled. It’s really supposed to be there.
The county will be training drivers how to navigate the shoulder of the interstate as part of a new technique to move buses faster between the suburbs and downtown.
The new bus-on-shoulder service will start Jan. 3, but drivers will begin their on-road training Thursday. Drivers will be in training every day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. until Dec. 8. The Kansas Highway Patrol will be on hand to escort the buses.
The bus-on-shoulder service is an outgrowth of a study that examined the feasibility of running commuter trains parallel to I-35 between the Kansas suburbs and downtown. The county spent 15 years studying commuter rail before concluding in 2007 that expanded bus service was the way to go.
The new service allows buses to run on the shoulder on eight miles of I-35 from 95th Street to Lamar Avenue. Buses can run on the shoulder only when traffic slows to less than 35 mph. They can run only 10 mph faster than traffic, but no faster than 35 mph.
Planners believe the new service will cut three to five minutes off a bus trip from Olathe to downtown.
In the next two weeks, highway crews will be wrapping up $157,000 worth of highway improvements to make the interstate suitable for the new bus service. Drivers will see new signs denoting the bus service, plus new guardrails and highway pavement markings.
Highway crews, however, will be leaving the rumble strips on the side of the highway in place. A highway department spokeswoman said tests have indicated that the rumble strips were hardly detectable on the bus.
Bus-on-shoulder services have been around nationally for close to 40 years. They are used in Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami and a couple of other places nationally. Engineering studies have found the services to be safe.