Kevin from Littleton writes,“What’s driving you crazy? Good article on the legalities and reasons people don't turn right on red. What would you say to folks who can turn right into a protected lane but don't because they want to turn into lane one or two? The specific example that drives me crazy is people turning right onto Santa Fe (southbound) from Aspen Grove Way. There is an acceleration lane that eventually exits onto Mineral, but it is largely ignored. I've often thought CDOT should add a green arrow for the right turn, but I don't know if there is a reason they don't. Hoping you can shed some light or at least some thoughts on this.”
There are several issues at play at that specific location, Kevin, including an eventual redesign of Aspen Grove, a redesign of the Santa Fe Drive/Mineral Avenue intersection and the question about why drivers don’t know how to use a continuous lane.
Let’s talk about the last one first.
I’ve said it before and I will say it until the day I can’t drive any more: If you follow road markings and signs, they will lead you in the right direction. In general, most drivers are bad at paying attention to or just plain ignore what lane they are supposed to be turning into.
I covered a similar problem in Lone Tree with drivers turning from westbound Lincoln Avenue to northbound Yosemite Street. Most of the drivers making that turn would immediately turn into the right most through lane, avoiding the dedicated turn/merge lane.
It is a problem that happens at most multi-lane available turns. In general, the way it is supposed to work is you turn into the rightmost lane then merge left, into the correct through lane as markings indicate. On southbound Santa Fe Drive, the merge markings begin across from the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
While there is a continuous lane from eastbound Aspen Grove Way to southbound Santa Fe Drive, there is a red light that might be perceived by some drivers that they can’t turn right on red. That is not the case. There is no prohibitive right on red, so drivers should stop, then proceed in the turn/merge lane.
But as I watched one day, many drivers stopped and waited for the southbound traffic to clear and then they turned into the right lane. That is doing it wrong. It is not necessary to wait for a clearing as drivers should ignore the through drivers and turn into the turn/merge lane and then merge farther down the road.
The traffic signal for the right turn shows green only when the left turn arrow is also showing green for drivers turning northbound on Santa Fe Drive.
“It may be possible to also display the right turn arrow for eastbound to southbound traffic while the northbound left turn arrow is green in what is known as a ‘right turn phase overlap,’” said Ben Kiene, Colorado Department of Transportation Region 1 traffic operations engineer.
Kiene told me this technique is usually not done in instances where there is a need to accommodate a significant number of U-turn drivers, but that isn’t a problem yet at this intersection. I say yet because there are major changes coming to Santa Fe Drive and Mineral Avenue.
Some of the drivers making the right turn directly into lane one, or the left through lane, might be getting ready to eventually make a left on eastbound Mineral Drive. That won’t be an option in a few years after the City of Littleton redesigns that interchange into a quadrant road interchange, or quad road for short.
A quad road interchange eliminates all left turns, putting them instead onto the quad road. I have a fantastic discussion with Aaron Heumann, transportation engineering manager for Littleton Public Works, on my podcast that explains all the ins and outs of a quad road.
Another dynamic happening here is the eventual redesign and repurposing of the entire Aspen Grove property. In November of 2021, the Littleton City Council voted to move forward with repurposing the Aspen Gove shopping area. These future changes could lead to a design change to the intersection of Aspen Grove Way at Santa Fe Drive because, in general, with more people living there, you will get more traffic.
According to the proposal submitted by Brad J. Haigh, PLA Principal of Norris Design, the future of Aspen Grove would include residential housing, a hotel, new gathering spaces and more.
“The goal is to create a more sustainable, socially conscious and walkable property that meets the broader community needs by 1) maximizing “highest and best” use alternatives to create live/work/play spaces. 2) replacing existing retail buildings with mixed-use, high density, market rate housing and ground level retail (other value-add uses will be considered). 3) retaining “high-value” tenants that meet the criteria above. 4) enhancing accessibility to and from the RTD mass transit station and the South Platte River trail head and 5) improving the attractiveness of the center to the young, “millennial” renters and shoppers by placing a focus on health and wellness,” the proposal says.
This future development proposal doesn’t include specific concrete plans for any road changes as the development team says this initial step is just a zoning framework change without a specific project plan.
Maybe the way to handle these situations in the future, Kevin, is to print out this or my other how to make a proper right turn stories and hand them out to drivers as education is truly the key to better traffic flow.
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 any podcast app including iTunes , Stitcher , Spotify and Podbean.