Operational and Safety Impacts of U-Turns at Signalized Intersections

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Title: Operational and Safety Impacts of U-Turns at Signalized Intersections
Author: Carter, Daniel L.
Advisors: Dr. Joseph Hummer, Committee Chair
Dr. Billy Williams, Committee Member
Dr. Nagui Rouphail, Committee Member
Abstract: With rapidly growing urban areas and construction of new developments, efficient access to the roadway network becomes a relevant issue. In the effort to balance safety, mobility, and access, many transportation officials are in favor of designs that employ raised medians on the main road. However, this decision draws much controversy from those opposed to the lack of direct access that comes with raised median designs. One of the issues in this controversy is the effect of increased U-turns at adjacent intersections. The purpose of this research is to determine the operational and safety effects of U-turns at signalized intersections. The operational analysis involved measurements of vehicle headways in exclusive left turn lanes at 14 intersections. By regression analysis, I obtained an equation to estimate saturation flow reduction based on intersection characteristics. This equation indicates a 1.8% saturation flow rate loss in the left turn lane for every 10% increase in U-turn percentage and an additional 1.5% loss for every 10% U-turns if the U-turning movement is opposed by protected right turn overlap from the cross street. The safety study involved a set of 78 intersections. Fifty-four sites were chosen randomly, and twenty-four sites were selected based on their reputation as U-turn 'problem sites'. Although the group of study sites was purposely biased toward sites with high U-turn percentages, the study found that 65 of the 78 sites did not have any collisions involving U-turns in the three-year study period, and the U-turn collisions at the remaining 13 sites ranged from 0.33 to 3.0 collisions per year. Sites with double left turn lanes, protected right turn overlap, or high left turn and conflicting right turn traffic volumes were found to have a significantly greater number of U-turn collisions.
Date: 2004-04-15
Degree: MS
Discipline: Civil Engineering
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/464

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