I-5 Bus Shoulder Driving Begins Nov. 12

I-5 Bus Shoulder Driving Begins Nov. 12

Nov 8, 2018

Snohomish County bus riders will save time during the morning commute when the freeway is most congested

Snohomish County, Wash.
- Snohomish County transit riders heading south on I-5 will soon be able to navigate through the morning congestion more quickly, thanks to the newly completed transit-only shoulder lane.

Starting Monday, Nov. 12, buses will be able to travel on the 1.5-mile stretch of the southbound I-5 inside shoulder lane between the Lynnwood Transit Center and the Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station.
This lane was created under the new bus-on-shoulder prog
ram funded by WSDOT and Sound Transit, and is the first Sound Transit 3 construction project to come online following voter approval of the regional transit measure in 2016.

“Snohomish County commuters endure some of the country’s worst traffic on I-5, 405 and US-2,” said Sound Transit Board Chair Dave Somers. “This new bus lane, funded through ST3 and an investment from WSDOT, is the product of collaboration between regional partners to provide some much-needed relief for our commuters. As light rail makes its way north toward Snohomish County, we will continue to look for ways to keep people moving and to provide commuting options. This is the public’s investment at work!”

“This project is a great example of the work we can accomplish together with our transit partners, providing safe and reliable transportation options,” said WSDOT Regional Transit Coordination Director Dylan Counts. “Allowing buses to run on the highway shoulder improves speed and reliability, allowing commuters to spend less time on the road and more time doing what’s important to them.”

A video of the faster bus ride can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/299479547.

Commuters may have already seen buses in the shoulder lane the last two weeks while transit operators train on this new, slightly narrower lane.

Beginning Monday, buses will only use the shoulder lane under the following circumstances:

  • During the weekday morning commute (Monday through Friday, 6 - 9 a.m.).

  • When traffic in the adjacent HOV lane is running substantially slower than posted speeds.

  • When a bus driver believes he or she will gain a time advantage by using the shoulder lane rather than remaining in the HOV lane.

  • Buses will operate no more than 15 mph above the speed of HOV traffic, with a maximum speed of 35 mph.


Buses driving in the shoulder lane will also have their flashers on to be highly visible to other drivers. The shoulder lane is clearly marked with “Authorized Transit Only” signs. Non-transit vehicles may not drive in the shoulder lane, but can still use it in emergencies.

Community Transit and Sound Transit buses already use the shoulder lane on southbound I-405 when the morning commute is heavily congested. That operation has saved time for some bus riders, and bus routes using southbound I-5 now have that benefit.

“Our drivers and trainers have developed procedures to ensure safe driving on shoulder lanes with a goal of improving schedule reliability for our transit riders,” said Community Transit CEO Emmett Heath. Community Transit operates 19 of its own bus routes to Seattle and UW, and four Sound Transit Express bus routes to Seattle.

“Transit improvements don’t have to be large or complicated to make a difference for people who travel our congested roads every day,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “Before light rail reaches Snohomish County in 2024, this is one way we’re able to reduce travel time for I-5 bus commuters.”

The bus-on-shoulder program is among numerous voter-approved investments that WSDOT, Community Transit and Sound Transit are implementing as the region’s population and congestion continue growing rapidly. The feasibility study of other possible locations for bus on shoulder will be complete in 2019.

Other projects include:

  • Community Transit’s second bus rapid transit (BRT) line -- The Swift Green Line is scheduled to open in early 2019 and will run between the Boeing/Paine Field manufacturing center and the Canyon Park high-tech center. Early planning is also underway for a third line, the Swift Orange Line, to connect with Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail when it gets to Lynnwood in 2024.

  • Sound Transit’s system expansion – The agency is simultaneously working to extend Link light rail north, south, east and west, opening new stations every few years to form a 116-mile regional system by 2041. Sound Transit is on track to open extensions to Seattle's University District, Roosevelt and Northgate neighborhoods in 2021, with service to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond's Overlake area opening in 2023. Additional extensions to Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Downtown Redmond will open in 2024.

  • Thereafter light rail extensions are scheduled to reach Tacoma and West Seattle in 2030; Ballard in 2035; Everett in 2036; and South Kirkland and Issaquah in 2041. The Tacoma Link light rail system will reach the city’s Hilltop neighborhood in 2022 and Tacoma Community College in 2039.

  • Other upcoming transit expansions include the 2024 launch of bus rapid transit on I-405 and SR 522/Northeast 145th corridors, major expansions to Sounder South service that include longer platforms and trains, service extensions to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and DuPont, and improvements to parking and access at Sounder North stations by 2024.