Thursday, April 28, 2016

Why Is There No Left Hand Turn Signal From NE 45th Street Onto Mary Gates Drive From NE 45th Street, Only An Empty Signal Head?

Intersection with no left-hand turn lane onto
Mary Gates Drive NE from NE 45th Street

Several Laurelhurst Blog readers have emailed about why there is a signal board, but no left hand turn signal for turning left onto Mary Gates Drive from busy NE 45th Street, near Sand Point Way.

This very busy intersection is sometimes referred to as "Five Corners" and is where Union Bay Place NE, Mary Gates Boulevard, NE 45th Street, 35th Avenue NE and Sand Point Way all meet.

One resident wrote:

It's very dangerous turning onto Mary Gates Drive without a left hand turn signal and so many, many cars coming, especially during busy times during the day. We have almost been hit several times by cars going very fast on Sand Point Way through the light. We see a fixture for it, but no signal is there. Do you know what is going on?

The Laurelhurst Blog checked with the SDOT Traffic Signals group who said:

We believe you are referring to the westbound to southbound left turn phase on NE 45th Street.  We think of NE 45th Street as running East-West.  If that’s the case, there is no issue we know of here.    
We have never had a left turn signal for that turn. Westbound traffic turning left onto Mary Gates has always had to turn on a green ball and yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians in the crosswalk. The sign and left turn lane do “instruct” people in that lane to turn left, but the sign and turn lane by themselves do not indicate that a signal is present or supposed to be present for the left turn. They just tell drivers in that lane that they must turn left as opposed to going straight.
A couple years ago, SDOT rebuilt this intersection, and we made plans to eventually put the westbound left turn phase in, so it could look like the signal head disappeared.   
However, we found issues with the new phase and an incompatibility with the software used to operate the signal controller while testing the signal controller software, so SDOT went ahead with the rebuild without putting in the new phase.  We hope to eventually put in the left turn phase, so the infrastructure has been set up to eventually accommodate it.    
The intersection was built so that at some future date, a left turn signal head could be added relatively easily; this could be giving the appearance of a “missing” signal head. 
If the issue can be fixed, we will then be able to put in the westbound to southbound left turn phase.   In the meantime, the span wires (the wires supporting the signal heads) have been set up to accommodate the westbound left turn phase if and when we can put it in.
The signals run different timing patterns throughout the day, as traffic patterns change.  During the transition between different timing patterns, some phases were being skipped (not being served).  We are hoping that a future revision to the controller software or a fix by the manufacturer will prevent this from happening.
In August of 2008, three cameras were installed at "Five Points", after the Laurelhurst Community Club voted unanimously to support neighbors requests as well as a submittal of more than 400 petition signatures, for installation of the cameras at the intersection. LCC requested funding for cameras in September of the previous year. 

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