A plan in the works would allow drivers to use the shoulder when traffic backs up on the Blue Route, but it's not going to happen soon.

PennDOT has applied for a federal grant to open the shoulders of Interstate 476 — better known as the Blue Route — to traffic,  said district executive Ken McClain.

"Hard shoulder running is an idea where we actively manage the shoulder to add additional capacity to the main line of 476," McClain said. "So instead of having the shoulders sit dormant as a shoulder, it would eventually be able to accommodate additional traffic to run on that shoulder to increase capacity for the highway."

The project, expected to cost $60 million, would be a pilot that could expand to more highways in the region, McClain said.

"We would look for other areas on I-95 and 76 where we might be able to utilize this as well," he said.

But even this pilot program, he said, is several years away.