C-Tran and the Washington State Department of Transportation will start construction this weekend on a project that will create a bus-only lane on the left shoulder of a 5-mile stretch of southbound Interstate 5 through Vancouver.
The $4.9 million project will narrow the existing traffic lanes of I-5 from 12 feet wide to 11 feet, allowing the shoulder to be widened to 14 feet for bus use. The bus-only lane will run from around 99th Street in Hazel Dell to the Interstate 5 Bridge, allowing buses to bypass morning commute congestion if speeds drop below 35 miles per hour.
The lanes will continue to look and operate like normal shoulders for other motorists, and they will still be available for disabled vehicles, incident response and other emergencies. Battle Ground-based Tapani Inc. is WSDOT’s contractor for the project.
C-Tran rolled out a pilot program to test the bus-on-shoulder concept three years ago, using the shoulder lanes of a segment of Highway 14 between Interstate 205 and Southeast 164th Avenue.
“Over the last three years, we’ve seen how successful the bus on shoulder pilot project has been for commuters who rely on C-Tran buses for travel along State Route 14,” C-Tran CEO Shawn Donaghy said in a statement. “We’re excited to partner with WSDOT once more to implement another low-cost solution, optimizing the use of the existing infrastructure to provide immediate benefits to commuters who use public transit on southbound I-5.”
Construction work for the I-5 bus lane will take place on weekend nights when there’s less traffic, according to a press release from WSDOT. The shoulder and up to two left lanes of southbound I-5 will be closed at various times for paving, restriping and electrical work, but any closures will only happen during designated periods of the night.
Single-lane closure hours will start at 8 p.m., with double-lane closure times starting at 9:30 p.m. or 10:30 p.m. depending on the day of the week. Closures will end the following morning between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m., again depending on the day of the week.
Buses are expected to begin using the new lane in the fall, and operators will receive training in advance for how to safely merge in and out of congested traffic.
The work is timed to be completed ahead of the I-5 Bridge trunnion replacement project, which will close the northbound span of the I-5 Bridge for up to nine days in September to replace a cracked trunnion at the top of its south tower. The trunnions are a central component of the system that raises the bridge’s lift span to allow tall river traffic to pass underneath.
The southbound span will be reconfigured to carry traffic in both directions for the duration of the closure, and significant delays and backups are expected.