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.
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.