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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Posting Travel Times on Arterial Routes

I work in a few different locations during the week, and I use the overhead message boards (at least when they have travel times) to at least give me an idea of what I can expect on the roadway ahead.

When I am traveling west on I-70 out of the city in the evening, I can tell if there has been a crash on the road ahead long before I hit the city limits. There's a nice overhead message board that tells me how long I can expect to be on the road if I am heading toward I-270. If I see the sign indicating that it's about 25 minutes to I-270, I know there's some slowdown in traffic ahead. Depending on what other information is available (perhaps an crash location or lanes closed ahead) I can even make an early decision to change my route to something that may be a little longer, but will be faster in the long run.

Now, MoDOT is putting that same technology to work on some of the other major roads in the city. Right now, Route 94 in St. Charles has smaller versions of the message boards active and providing travel times betwen I-70 and Route 40. In the next few months, we'll be installing and turning on similar boards on Route 141 and Lindbergh (Route 67).

MoDOT put these boards up at decision points -- major intersecting highways and river crossings at I-70, Route 364 and Route 40/61. Paying attention to the information these signs provide can help drivers make better choices about which roadways or bridges they want to use.

At the least, it gives them the option to decide if they want to spend some time with their fellow travelers in congestion or choose a different route.

Andrew Gates
MoDOT Community Relations

Friday, July 16, 2010

Flashing Yellow Arrows Work Better

Even as early as kindergarten, I remember reciting the basic traffic rules mantra – “Red means ‘stop,’ green means ‘go.’ Now, although many people, myself included, often believe that yellow means step on the gas, I do still remember the often unmentioned addendum to the mantra – “Yellow means ‘proceed with caution.’

However, paying attention to that mantra was why traffic engineers are starting to embrace the use of the flashing yellow turn signal arrows to let drivers know they can make a yielding left turn. Until recently, most intersections that allowed drivers to turn left in the spaces between on-coming traffic used a round green ball signal with a sign that told drivers to turn left on the green ball. That rule made sense, but it didn’t keep the signals consistent. When the signal was green, you couldn’t “go,” you were supposed to “proceed with caution.”

So as St. Louis started to test these signals (three of them on Olive Boulevard in 2006) and now is installing them in locations around the area (currently, there are a number on Route K in St. Charles county, five more on Olive Boulevard, and a number on Lindbergh Boulevard), the concept made sense to me.

I have seen some comments from local drivers during the introduction of the flashing yellow arrows. They seemed to fall into two categories. 1) people seem to be confused by these signals, and 2) the change is simply because someone wanted to justify their continued existence and adjusted these signals just for the sake of change.

The first part may be somewhat true – as you introduce a new element to the driver, some of them can potentially misinterpret what the flashing yellow arrow means. The second is flat-out wrong. The Federal Highway Administration sponsored a study that showed that the signals were safer, and that more people understood what the flashing yellow arrow meant.
Basically it breaks down this way – the green ball signal with the yield sign is equal to the flashing yellow arrow. The flashing arrow is more intuitive, is safer, and is more consistent with what we teach our youth about traffic signals.

You can find out more information on the flashing yellow arrows at our website. You can also access the Federal Study from that site. We also have a video showing how to drive through a flashing yellow arrow on YouTube.

Andrew Gates
MoDOT Community Relations

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Missouri's largest ARRA project starts

Yesterday, MoDOT and local politicians got together to launch the last section of a project that has been in the works for about 40 years -- the final section of Route 141.

Route 141, between Ladue and Olive Boulevard is still a three lane road (one lane in each direction with a turn lane). Often, during the spring or heavy rainfall, the section of Route 141 there has to be closed due to flooding. Also, anyone who has driven through the area during morning or evening rush hours can expect to be backed up for some time at Parkway Central or as Route 141 goes from a four lane divided highway to a three lane road.

This $44.5 million project is paid for by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money will pull Route 141 above the flood plain and improve the traffic flow on the route. Not only that, but by relocating the new route to the east, a great deal of through traffic from Route 141 (people accessing the Maryland Heights Expressway and Route 364 to St. Charles County) will be removed from a roadway that services two schools, a school bus depot and a number of businesses and subdivisions.

This project will make the roadway safer and move traffic more efficently. Work on the project starts this month and work should be completed by summer 2010.