The intersection of 96th Street and Allisonville Road in the part of greater Indianapolis known as the town of Fisehrs is a busy one -- about 55,000 cars pass through every day -- and the average delay ranges from 35 seconds to 80 seconds depending on the time of day. They have a plan to reduce the average delay to 10 to 35 seconds, and this is a new one for me:
Fishers agreed to pay R.W. Armstrong and sub-consultant A & F Engineering up to $627,100 to determine how to turn the intersection into a "Michigan Left" -- or median U-turn -- configuration. The six council members present unanimously approved the contract and design.
The new design will require drivers wishing to turn left to go straight or turn right at the main intersection and then make a U-turn at one of four auxiliary intersections.
Town officials say that would yield the best traffic flow improvements for a relatively low cost and small amount of right-of-way acquisition.
So, going straight through the intersection and doing a u-turn to go right instead of going left is a "Michigan left." I wondered if the name was a derogatory knock on the Wolverine State, but it turns out the turns were invented there, all the way back in the 1960s. They're trying them in Plano, outside Dallas, and it's got drivers a little perturbed:
After it opened, the new configuration led to some driver confusion but no accidents. Police stopped about 30 motorists per hour to educate them on the new turn.
Phyllis Eugene was among several dozen drivers who stopped in the former left turn lane on Legacy and prepared to make a turn onto Preston. Plano Police Sgt. A.D. Paul stepped in front of her car.
"We've got a new traffic design," he told her as he handed her a card explaining how to navigate the new configuration. "You've got to go straight."
"All the time?" asked Eugene, who was driving to a dentist appointment. "What are we going to do?"
All the time? No, girlie, just when you feel like it. This is Texas, after all.
This reminds of the very, very old joke about the guy who asks for directions at a train station. "Go left, and you'll be right," he is told. "Well, you don't have to get smart-alecky about it," he replies. "OK, fine. Go right, and you'll be left."