Ada County Highway District

ACHD's Road Wizard Sunday, April 29, 2018 ACHD's Road Wizard

Right-turn lanes straightened out at the Cole Road and Overland Road intersection; bicyclists on 8th Street can activate crosswalk flashing yellow caution lights but still, must yield to motorists on River Street.

The Road Wizard Replies

Dear Road Wizard: Whose bright idea was it to update the Cole Road and Overland Road intersection, taking the auto lane out when merging onto Overland heading east? And now you have the merge lane heading west onto Overland blocked. I hate to see my taxes wasted on dumb projects where traffic is hampered even more.

John

Road Wizard:

It wasn't my idea, but I wouldn't mind taking credit for the work. ACHD is changing the intersection to reverse a disturbing crash rate among right-turning vehicles.

The old intersection had curved, somewhat "free-running" right-turn-only lanes that weren't controlled by traffic signals. The lane layout suggested an easy, merge-with-traffic situation coming out of the right turns much like a freeway on-ramp. But in reality, right-turning drivers were expected to yield to conflicting traffic and stop if necessary.

The layout was blamed for many of the 155 reported crashes at Cole and Overland between 2012 and 2016. This was the second-highest crash count of all intersections in Ada County during that time; only the Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue intersection was worse. About 75-percent of the crashes at Cole and Overland were rear-end collisions, and the majority of those involved right-turning vehicles.

One of the most effective ways to prevent this type of pattern is to have the right turns controlled by traffic signals. To do this, the curved right-turn-only lanes will be straightened out and relocated alongside the through-traffic lanes. This will provide a better view of conflicting traffic during right-on-red turns and make pedestrians easier to see.

The signalized right turns won't work as efficiently as the free-running turns but are expected to reduce right-turn, rear-end collisions by about half. Construction work has required temporary lane closures, but extra work crews have helped fast-forward the scheduled completion to early May.

Dear Road Wizard: I was driving down River Street and almost hit a bicyclist who pulled out from behind a stop sign on 8th Street. While passing through the intersection on foot, I saw that there are buttons for the yellow crosswalk lights that say bicyclists in the motor vehicle lanes should use them. But cross traffic doesn't yield to bicyclists in the road passing through a stop sign, so what is the point of these buttons except to cause confusion? If the bicyclist was crossing in a crosswalk as a pedestrian, they would be on the sidewalk and not in the street at a stop sign.

Joshr

Road Wizard:

There are stop signs on 8th, but not on River. River carries most of the motor vehicle traffic while 8th is a popular bike route.

There is a crosswalk for pedestrians on 8th crossing River that has flashing yellow lights on the "school crossing" signs. The lights can be activated with push buttons either reachable from the sidewalk or from the road. They are meant to alert motorists that pedestrians and/or bicyclists are present.

Indeed, motorists are not legally obligated to yield to bicyclists in the road coming from stop signs, even when crosswalk lights are activated. And bicyclists in travel lanes shouldn't expect to be treated as pedestrians. But bicyclists needed a way to tell motorists to proceed with caution. ACHD will look into better ways to communicate how the crosswalk lights should be used.

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