Posted by Hall Signs on 3/12/2013 to
Have you heard of a Michigan Left?
Don't worry if you haven't - it's not the latest dance craze, food trend, or Internet meme - it's actually a unique traffic engineering setup that replaces a left turn lane with a combination right turn and u-turn setup. So named due to it's use along Michigan roads and highways, this design is also called a "median U-turn" or a "thru turn intersection". If you've ever traveled to Texas, Utah, Louisiana, or Georgia, it's possible you've actually driven through a Michigan Left, although you may not have known it at the time.
How does it work? Say you want to make a left-hand turn across a divided highway. Common at-grade intersection designs might feature a dedicated turn lane for drivers to make this maneuver, with signs and signals appropriate to that specific intersection. In a Michigan Left design, you would be directed to first make a right turn into a designated u-turn queue. When the opposing traffic has cleared, you would be prompted to make a u-turn and go back through the intersection. Drivers who want to make a left-hand turn off the divided highway would be required to do the reverse of the above and "overshoot" the intersection, then go through the u-turn lane, come back to the intersection, and make a right hand turn to get off the highway
If all this sounds somewhat confusing, residents of nearby Fishers, Indiana might agree with you. Last year the city announced plans to redesign several critical intersections with this unique engineering setup, and completed the first earlier this week. Drivers that used the intersection when it opened offered mixed reviews; some thought the design posed no problem, but others felt it was confusing and unnecessary. Despite the criticism, engineering studies on the Michigan Left - known as the "Fishers U-Turn" here in the eponymous city - have shown a reduction in left-turn collisions and an increase in traffic flow combined with fewer delays.
Have you ever seen or driven through a "Michigan Left" intersection design? We want to hear about it!