City investing $20 million to add bus-only lanes

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced the city will devote $20 million for the Bus Priority Zone Program, a joint initiative of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) to improve bus travel on seven core routes.

The Bus Priority Zone Program is designed to eliminate bus “slow zones” caused by bottlenecks along the city’s most heavily traveled corridors. A variety of elements from a transportation “toolkit” of street treatments will be used as part of mini-projects along these corridors to give priority to public transit, and in some cases, improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow.

The CDOT has started work on the first element in a series of projects along 79th St., which is served by the #79 bus route, one of the city’s highest ridership routes. Among the improvements being made are two dedicated red CTA bus-only lanes to help move buses through the corridor more quickly, new overhead signage, and new technologies, queue jump signals, to improve traffic light timing and allow buses to move through an intersection ahead of regular traffic.

The city and the state agency will use $20 million to expand the Bus Priority Zone Program to other areas throughout Chicago. Corridors being considered for future or additional improvements are: Halsted St. (#8), Western Ave. (#49), Pulaski Rd. (#53), 63rd St. (#63), Chicago Ave. (#66), Belmont Ave. (#77) and/or 79th St. (#79). Planning for the new improvements is expected to take place in the remainder of 2019 and into early 2020, with construction work breaking ground as early as the 2021 construction season.

Since the launch of the Bus Priority Zone Program this spring, work has already begun on the corner of Chicago and Ogden avenues and will be breaking ground soon on 79th St. corridor. Additional targeted investments are being made this year on Western Ave., near the Blue Line CTA station, on Wacker Drive at LaSalle St. and Wacker at Michigan Ave.

Project work includes, but is not limited to, the installation of designated bus only lanes, new pavement markings, street-level and overhead signage, optimizing of bus stop locations, as well as other operational and safety improvements such as curb extensions and pedestrian refuge islands.

The $20 million expansion of the program was made possible with funds from the City of Chicago, Cook County and the state, as well as $17 million in federal funding from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program, which was recently approved by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

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