Blue Route shoulders might provide rush-hour lanes

Bumper to bumper is a familiar Blue Route scene, and the long-term forecast is worse. One possible source of relief - using the road's shoulders - is mentioned in a regional study, but such a project would be years off.
Bumper to bumper is a familiar Blue Route scene, and the long-term forecast is worse. One possible source of relief - using the road's shoulders - is mentioned in a regional study, but such a project would be years off. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 02, 2013

If the Blue Route seems packed now, just imagine what it will be like in 2040, when the region's population has grown by 600,000 people, an 11.5 percent bump.

More cars. More Shore traffic on Friday nights in summer. More logjams when the Phillies are in town.

But relief may be on the way. Regional planners are floating a plan to convert the shoulders of I-476 during rush hour, easing traffic flow during the busiest times without spending money to widen the road.

During peak hours in the morning and afternoon, vehicles would be allowed to drive on the shoulder, creating a bonus lane for the estimated 90,000 drivers that use the road each day.

The plan was mentioned in a recent report on managing growth from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

But don't expect to zoom along those traffic-clogged 20 miles from Plymouth Meeting to Chester any time soon.

According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Charles Metzger, "This is not something we can do right away."

The Phils might be back on top by the time traffic eases up on the way to Citizens Bank Park.

Metzger said it could be four or five years for the project to be completed.

That's if it gets funding and the project is approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

"There's a lot to consider," Metzger said. "We've got to identify funding sources and, as you might know, we're a little short on funds these days."

If the project is green-lighted, PennDot would have to strengthen the shoulders and install times notifying drivers when they could use the extra lane.

There's also the problem of enforcement.

"Just because it's outside of rush hours doesn't mean people aren't going to jump on the shoulders," Metzger said.

"That's the hurdles that are in front of us."


Contact Kathy Boccella at kboccella@phillynews.com, 610-313-8232, or follow @kathyboccella on Twitter.

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