In March, Merit Electric Company of Reno will begin replacing traditional left turn signals with new flashing yellow arrow signals.
The flashing yellow arrow functions much like a green bulb with a “left turn yield on green” sign and will allow motorists to turn left if the intersection is clear. Traditional red arrow signals do not allow such a maneuver.
The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) collaborated on the $1 million project in order to provide a safer, more efficient left turn for motorists.
“Several states, including Nevada, are currently using this type of left turn signal,” a NDOT brochure states. “We expect the new flashing yellow arrow display to become the standard signal display for left turns.”
According to NDOT, studies conducted by the Federal Highway Administration have determined “the new indication helps prevent crashes, increases intersection capacity and provides additional traffic management flexibility for road agencies.
“It gives traffic engineers the flexibility to use specific indications during different times of the day to better serve traffic demands,” the brochure states.
Confusion could result initially about the meaning of the flashing yellow arrow, said NDOT spokesperson Scott Magruder.
“People might think the flashing yellow light means to just go,” he said. “The yellow flashing light means to proceed, but you need to make sure no cars are coming in the opposite direction.”
“Drivers should yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians,” the NDOT brochure states. “When it is safe, proceed with caution through the intersection.”
The good news for motorists is they will not have to wait at a red arrow if it is safe to turn.
“It can be very frustrating to sit at a red arrow when there is no traffic coming in the other direction,” Magruder said.
About 130 lights will be replaced in Sparks, Reno, Carson City and Douglas County with federal, state and local gas tax funds. The flashing yellow signals will be installed only at intersections where NDOT engineers determined traffic flow and safety could be improved, Magruder said. Intersections with three turn lanes, for example, are not prime candidates for the flashing yellow lights.
Magruder said light modifications will begin in Sparks with the intersections of Greg Street and Linda Way, Greg Street and Industrial Way, Rock and Freeport boulevards, Pyramid Way and C Street, Prater Way and 15th Street, and Victorian Avenue and 16th Street.
Along with the flashing yellow arrow signals, flashing pedestrian signs will be replaced with countdown lights at most affected intersections. The countdown light allows pedestrians to know exactly how much time they have to cross the street.
Magruder said it is important for motorists to understand what the flashing yellow light means.
“Proceed with a yield,” he cautioned.
NDOT hopes to complete the project within three months.
“It’s a pretty aggressive project,” Magruder said. “The intent is to get finished by Memorial Day.”