Kevin from Interlocken writes, “On the eastbound US 36 exit onto Wadsworth there's no yield or stop sign. There is a sign for lanes merge posted, but people just stop. It's an accident waiting to happen. I've thought about sitting out there with a sign that says "No yield, No stop. You have your own lane." But if they're turning left at the next light onto 128, they must go to the light.”
What you are talking about Kevin is one of my favorite driving features, a continuous or added lane. The problem for you and me is that most drivers don’t know how to use it properly. What typically happens is drivers ignore the road markings or signs that indicate that they can keep moving in that lane, then merge left when there is a gap in the traffic flow and slow down or even stop in that continuous lane and wait for a break in traffic to continue on their way. Traffic engineers put in these continuous lanes to allow traffic to keep flowing from high traffic areas reducing backups. But when drivers don’t use it correctly, that flow is disrupted.
To compound the problem, in situations like the one coming off eastbound Highway 36 at Wadsworth, a driver who wants to make a left at the light at Colorado State Highway 128 should go to the traffic signal at the end of the ramp. They should make a right there to get to the left turn lane. However most drivers instead use the continuous lane, then slow down or sometimes stop in that lane, backing up ramp traffic in the process as they wait for all lanes on southbound Wadsworth to clear so they can then cross over to get into the left turn lane.
Then adding another wrinkle into the mix, specifically for this movement, that continuous lane is also a collector, distributor lane. What that means is drivers on the ramp use the lane to merge left onto southbound Wadsworth, at the same time drivers already on southbound Wadsworth use it to merge right and make the right turn onto westbound Interlocken Loop.
I asked the Colorado Department of Transportation about this problem, especially as it relates to stopped drivers who want to make the left on CO 128. They told me since there isn’t enough length between the ramp and the left turn lanes, they ask drivers to go to the traffic light and make the right turn there. That allows for easy access to the left turn lanes. CDOT has several signs posted along the ramp to convey that message, but they admit it is especially difficult to communicate to drivers just using signage.
When coming off Highway 36 at the exit to Wadsworth (CO 121), about 300 feet before the traffic signal, there is a large green sign that says, “to CO 128 East Use Center Lane.” That is the indication that drivers need to go to the traffic light and then make the right to allow them to merge left and get in the left turn lane at CO 128. Additionally, 250 feet before the traffic signal there are two white signs, one on each side of the exit. They show a diagram of where you can go from each lane. The left lane only goes left. The right lane only goes right, and the center lane can go left, right or straight.
However, on the westbound Highway 36 exit to W. 104th Ave./Church Ranch Boulevard, there is an additional sign right at the gore point— where the continuous lane starts explaining that if you're turning left at the next light, you must wait at the traffic light and make the right turn there. Even so, I watched drivers not follow that sign, maybe proving CDOT’s point about signage.
I hope this story will serve as an education for the drivers who don’t know how to use a continuous right turn properly. However, I am pretty confident I will be stopping behind a driver, probably today, when making one of these protected right turns.
Denver7 Traffic Expert 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 any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.