Monday, July 22, 2019

First Eastern Washington J-Turn opening in Spokane

By Ryan Overton

Update: a graphic of the new J-turn has been added to the blog.

If you haven’t noticed the construction on US 195 at Thorpe Road just south of Spokane, you’ll want to start paying close attention, especially if you drive this route frequently. Starting Tuesday, July 23, a new traffic pattern will open to drivers, affecting both those on US 195 as well as travelers on Thorpe Road wanting to access US 195 to the north or south.

It is called the J-Turn… or Michigan Left… or even RCUT (Restricted Crossing U-Turn). Whatever you prefer to call it, the J-Turn – the first in Eastern Washington – is ready to open to drivers. Because it is a new traffic pattern, it may take some getting used to. So to help you prepare, we’ve answered some common questions below.

What is a J-turn?
A J-Turn is a new type of intersection that has travelers merge into traffic in one direction before using a modified U-Turn – a J-Turn – to merge into the opposite direction of travel. This means briefly going in the opposite direction you want to travel, but doing so allows for safer merging and more time in between each merge decision. This reduces the risk of serious injury or fatal crashes.
This graphic shows how vehicles will negotiate the new J-turns opening near Spokane on US 195 Tuesday, July 23.

Why construct a J-Turn?
Increasing traffic volumes along the US 195 corridor meant intersection improvements were needed to keep traffic flowing and reduce the risk of collisions. The J-Turn is a low-cost improvement option that reduces the number of conflict points and decisions a driver has to make during each step of travel.

How will the new J-Turn work?
When the J-Turn opens for traffic on Tuesday, July 23, drivers will have a much simpler time getting onto US 195 from Thorpe Road.
Crews finish work on deceleration lanes that allow drivers to complete a J-Turn rather than
crossing the median to enter traffic on US 195 from Thorpe Road.
Currently, if you travel east on Thorpe Road and want to travel north on US 195 toward Spokane, you have to cross the two lanes of heavy southbound traffic into a center median before turning into the northbound lanes. The J-Turn instead requires drivers to make a right turn and briefly head southbound on US 195.
Once drivers safely merge into the southbound lanes, they move into the far left lane and into a newly constructed deceleration lane to start the J-Turn. Drivers will pull up to a painted stop bar line, giving them time to look to the right at the oncoming northbound traffic and determine when they can safely complete the turn and travel north.
Crews add permanent striping paint to a deceleration lane to create one of the new J-Turns on US 195.

The J-Turn eliminates the need of having to cross multiple lanes of traffic and moves the decision points a driver has to make farther apart. The deceleration lane also has more room for vehicles than the median, because several vehicles can line up in the lane.
The painted stop bar in the left of this photo will be used for travelers to wait at the end of the deceleration
lane before completing the J-Turn to enter northbound US 195 traffic.

People traveling west on Thorpe Road and heading southbound on US 195 will also use a J-Turn. As a driver, you will initially head north a quarter of a mile, travel into the far left lane to the deceleration lane and then complete the turn and merge into southbound traffic.

Won’t it take more time to travel in the opposite direction?
You might think so, but the answer is no. Currently, it can take a minute or longer waiting to  cross traffic to the open median and make the left turn. Using the J-Turn will take roughly a minute, even with the brief travel in the other direction. At certain times of the day the J-Turn could actually be faster than the current configuration because it allows more cars to wait in the queue to merge.

While this may take some time to get used to, the new configuration will create a safer way to access the highway and reduce the amount of critical decisions for drivers. And that improves travel for everyone on the roadway.

We thank everyone in advance for their patience navigating the new J-Turns, as well as being extra alert in the area while travelers adjust to the change.


Unknown said...

After stopping to merge at the stop bar, are you then expected to complete the J turn from a dead stop merging in to fast traffic?

WSDOT said...

The stop bar is only meant for vehicles to stop at when there is traffic oncoming. Once it is clear to travel and there is an appropriate gap between cars you are to then proceed. However, if you arrive at the stop bar and no traffic is coming the intended direction of travel, the stop bar is meant to be a yield and drivers can proceed through to complete the J-Turn without stopping. Again, as long as there is no traffic.

Unknown said...

Which Lane is a passenger car supposed to turn into, the passing lane, the traveling Lane or cross both into the merge Lane?

WSDOT said...

Whatever lane the driver feels most comfortable with, with traffic during the time to safely complete the turn. The J-Turn merge lane after the turn is designed for larger and longer vehicles looking to make the turn in their desired direction of travel or for vehicles wanting to get up to speed to merge into traffic. However, smaller vehicles can make the same turn into either the left or right lane of travel as long as it is safe to do so with traffic.

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