Synthesis of the Median U-Turn Intersection Treatment, Safety, and Operational Benefits
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Synthesis of the Median U-Turn Intersection Treatment, Safety, and Operational Benefits

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    In the United States, congestion at intersections throughout urban and suburban areas continues to worsen. Crashes reported at intersections have continued to increase. One potential treatment to combat congestion and safety problems at intersections is the Median U-Turn Intersection Treatment (MUTIT), which has been used extensively in Michigan for many years and has been implemented successfully in Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and Louisiana in recent years (Figure 1).

    The treatment involves the elimination of direct left turns at signal-controlled intersections from major and/or minor approaches. Drivers desiring to turn left from the major road onto an intersecting cross street must first travel through the at-grade, signal-controlled intersection and then execute a U turn at the median opening downstream of the intersection. These drivers then can turn right at the crossstreet. For drivers on the sidestreet desiring to turn left onto the major road, they must first turn right at the signal-controlled intersection and then execute a U turn at the downstream median opening and proceed back through the signalized intersection. The MUTIT can be implemented with and without signal control at the median openings on the major road.

    This synthesis summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of the MUTIT compared to conventional, at-grade signal-controlled intersections with left turns permitted from all approaches. The synthesis presents design guidelines including the location and design of the median crossovers on the major roads. Many of the guidelines presented in the synthesis are from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), and address directional and bidirectional crossovers and widened areas called "loons" that facilitate the U-turn maneuver by larger vehicles and at roads with narrow medians. The synthesis also discusses application criteria for the MUTIT, and presents information on the capacity and crash experience at these intersections relative to traditional intersections. Special considerations related to signal phasing at the median openings and signal phasing at the at-grade intersection also are discussed. Empirical evidence supports the practice that the reduction in signal phases at intersections can have higher vehicle-processing capacity and better level-of-service. In terms of safety, past research has shown that the reported numbers of crashes at MUTITs are 20 to 50 percent lower than comparable conventional intersections. The major safety benefit is a reduction in the probability of head-on and angle crashes that typically have high percentages of injury severity. Although the MUTIT typically is considered a corridor-wide treatment, the concept has been used successfully at isolated intersections to improve traffic flow and enhance safety.

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