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Intersections move to arrow-only turning

City will install protected-only left turns starting April 14

By: Viola Pruss

  |  Posted: Saturday, Apr 05, 2014 06:00 am

SAFETY EFFORT – The city is changing traffic signals along St. Albert Trail to allow left turns only on a green arrow.
SAFETY EFFORT – The city is changing traffic signals along St. Albert Trail to allow left turns only on a green arrow.
STU SALKELD/St. Albert Gazette

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Starting this month, drivers will have to refrain from making left-hand turns on many intersections in the city after the green signal arrow has turned off.

During the week of April 14, the city will be installing protected-only left turns on intersections along St. Albert Trail. That means drivers turning left will get a green arrow, and once that’s gone, no more turns will be allowed.

The new lights will ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians in the city, said Dean Schick, manager of transportation.

“Safety is the number one priority, of course,” he said. “But the goal is to mitigate severe motor-collision incidents and to eliminate the severe and fatal occurrence of accidents on roadways.”

The change will affect all north-south intersections along St. Albert Trail from Hebert/Gervais to Boudreau/Giroux. The change will also apply to traffic turning left onto the trail at St. Anne Street and at Hebert/Gervais.

St. Albert Trail intersections that already have protected left-hand turns include McKenney/Bellerose, Villeneuve/Erin Ridge and Coal Mine Road.

Prior to these changes taking effect, city intersections have allowed drivers to make a turn on the solid green signal that follows a green priority arrow. This has led to a lot of collisions in the past, said Schick.

Based on city data, there were 111 collisions in St. Albert related to left turns in 2013. These resulted in one fatality, 30 injury-related incidents and 80 property damages. In total, collisions caused by left-hand turns made up 13 per cent of all collisions that year.

Schick said collisions mostly happen because people speed up to make a turn after the green arrow turns off. Because of the speed and the angle they are turning, they don’t always see oncoming traffic or pedestrians, he said.

The new protected left turns are expected to slow drivers down as well as prevent them from turning unless they have a green arrow.

“You are making the left turn drivers have their own movement so there is no opposing conflict with oncoming vehicles and pedestrians,” he said.

During the installation of the lights, drivers should watch for signs warning them of signal phasing changes, said Schick. Each intersection will also receive signs that show no left turn on red beside the signal head, he said.

The light for left turns will change from having a green arrow only to include amber and red lights, he said.

“For the left turns you will have a left turn arrow, and then an amber (signal) and then it will turn red,” he said. “And then the straight-through movement will get their green.”

Pedestrians will not be affected by the change in signaling, he added. They won't be able to cross the street as long as the green arrow is active. But their crossing time will remain the same or increase, he said.

Signal times for motorists may change based on the time of day and traffic volumes, he said. The city is also implementing new seasonal traffic signals, to address varying road and weather conditions throughout the year.

The cost of changing to the left-turn protected system is about $42,000.


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