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Driving You Crazy: Why do people stop at yield sign from Jay Road onto Highway 119?

yield from jay to highway 36.JPG
Posted at 5:40 AM, Sep 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 10:18:16-04

Greg from Boulder writes, “What's driving you crazy? People STOPPING at the northbound YIELD sign going from westbound Jay Road onto northbound Hwy 119! THIS IS A YIELD, NOT A STOP. THERE IS A 500 YARD MERGE LANE ONTO HWY 119. DO NOT, DO NOT STOP. USE THE MERGE LANE AS IT WAS INTENDED. You don't stop on freeway on ramps. It’s the same thing. USE THE MERGE LANE and do NOT stop at the yield sign. Stopping here just causes unneeded backups.”

As a general rule, Greg, it is correct that drivers who stop at a yield sign do slow down traffic. However, I’m going to offer pushback on this one because of the uniqueness of this interchange. There are a couple parts of that movement from westbound Jay Road to northbound Diagonal Highway that are unusual.

One is the placement of the railroad tracks on the east side of the Diagonal Highway. The stop bar before the railroad tracks is 150 feet from the traffic signal and 70 feet from the turn to go northeast on the highway. It only takes three or four vehicles to be waiting at the red light to force other drivers to wait on the other side of the tracks. That configuration then only allows for green light drivers to get to that right turn merge.

The main issue here is when coming from Boulder towards Longmont on the Diagonal Highway, about 500 feet before Jay Road, there is an additional lane to the right that appears. At first look, it seems that the new lane is just a right turn only lane to go east on Jay Road. That lane allows for that, but it also doubles as a bus and bike rider through lane that permits them to keep going and travel past the Jay Road intersection.

It’s that bus/bike through lane movement that creates a potentially dangerous conflict between buses, bike riders and vehicles. See, that through lane, just past the traffic light, becomes part of the acceleration merge lane from eastbound Jay Road to northeast bound Diagonal Highway. That is the same acceleration lane that eastbound Jay Road drivers use to get on the Diagonal towards Longmont. If an unsuspecting driver doesn’t at least slow down at the yield and instead makes the right, just rolling on that merge unaware that a bus or bike rider doesn’t have to turn, that scenario could lead to disastrous results.

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“The ‘yield’ sign is intended to communicate that motorists and cyclists are not required to come to a complete stop before merging with northbound traffic, however, it is always important that motorists identify all possible conflicts before merging, and that can often require coming to a full stop," said Mike Sweeney, the civil engineering senior project manager at Boulder’s Transportation and Mobility Department. "As you observe, there are multiple potential conflicts while merging, such as northbound-traveling bicyclists, and so if merging requires vehicles to come to a full stop at the yield sign, then that is best from a safety perspective.”

Presumably, many of the local drivers who make this turn all the time know about this potential conflict and choose to stop at the yield sign instead of rolling right through it like they would at a freeway ramp just to make sure the lane is clear. Taking the extra few seconds, Greg, to slow to a crawl or stop all together at that merge might make all the difference in the world to the lone bike rider who can be tough to see or to the dozens of people riding in a bus rolling through that intersection, not to mention drivers making that turn.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.