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Driving You Crazy: Why isn't there a left-turn arrow onto Dahlia Street from westbound Hampden Avenue?

With so much eastbound traffic, you have to run the light to turn left.
Hampden at Dahlia
Posted at 4:52 AM, Oct 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-17 09:40:41-04

Joe from Denver writes, “What's driving you crazy? Why isn't there an arrow to turn left onto Dahlia from Westbound Hampden Ave? This is already a bizarre intersection and with so much eastbound traffic, you have to run the light to turn left. I sat behind a driver who sat at the light for 3 light cycles as they couldn't figure out to go when the light turned yellow. I gave up and had to go up to the next turn.”

I too have been stuck in that same position, Joe, and did just what you did- made the turn when the light turned yellow. But that is a dangerous move because finishing that turn could put you in the path of the drivers on Happy Canyon who want to make the left to go west on Hampden or the few that make the hard left onto Dahlia. That intersection is so unique because of the way Happy Canyon connects to Hampden and Dahlia at an angle and that so many different angled turns are allowed.

When going west on Hampden, you have a left-turn waiting area that allows for vehicles to cue up to make either the left turn onto Happy Canyon or onto Dahlia. The problem is that the traffic volume on eastbound Hampden is so great, especially during morning and evening commutes, it is nearly impossible to make that turn while the light is still green. The closest traffic count monitors along Hampden are at Colorado Boulevard to the west and at Ivy Way to the east of Dahlia. The average daily volume at Hampden & Colorado is 55,000 vehicles while Hampden at Ivy sees over 62,000 vehicles a day.

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I asked the City of Denver about the feasibility of adding a left-turn light. They tell me due to the increased volume along Hampden over the years, they believe a left-turn signal is warranted to help drivers make that turn from westbound Hampden onto Dahlia or Happy Canyon. However, in order to install the left turn signal, the city says they would need to upgrade the traffic signal infrastructure, including installing a longer mast arm to be able to hold more signal heads.

While that sounds great, the city tells me they don’t currently have the funding needed to rebuild the signal infrastructure but are exploring opportunities to apply for the funding through Denver Regional Council of Governments and/or though the federal government. The other problem is that the process to acquire funding, complete any environmental or other traffic surveys, order the new infrastructure and complete installation can take years to complete, so don’t look for an easier turn anytime soon.

Another benefit to a new signal would be a safer turn. I looked through Denver Police Department crash data at that intersection and I counted 83 crashes over the past 5 years. A dedicated left-turn arrow could make that part of the intersection movement safer and could help to reduce crashes.

Here is an alternate route to try. Take a right on Elm or Eudora Street, take a left on the first street, Girard and make a left. That gets you to Dahlia. Take another left and then you can go south through the signal when it turns green. At the very least, you will not have to wait through several light cycles to make the left and you will not be in conflict with the many drivers I watched run that red light on eastbound Hampden. But remember to be respectful going through the neighborhood if you choose to turn off Hampden.

Why isn't there an arrow to turn left onto Dahlia Street from Westbound Hampden Ave?

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.