The center turn lane serves an important function, allowing for smoother and safer left turns on and off the street. However, when traffic backs up, some people use the center turn lane to pass standing vehicles. This is common when impatient drivers try and drive around traffic ahead to get to the left turn lane.
Driving in the center turn lane is both illegal and very dangerous. People are not expecting fast moving cars in that space which can lead to head on collisions and T-bone crashes, two of the deadliest types of crashes. While crash data doesn't note this specific behavior, Portland Police reports have mentioned several fatal and serious injury crashes caused because of driving in the center turn lane. This behavior is also one of the most common safety concerns we hear about, especially from community members in East Portland.
To address this issue, the Vision Zero team developed the “Center Turn Lane Delineation Pilot.” In fall 2021 we placed posts in the turn lane ahead of left turn signals at 13 locations on 122nd Avenue and at three other intersections on Halsey, Glisan, and Killingsworth streets. Community members contacted us to let us know the treatment was effective and preventing dangerous behavior. We also heard from community members that the posts were hard to see and how there wasn’t enough room for people to line up in the left turn lane.
Based on this feedback, we have revised the design and are planning another pilot for 2023. This revised design will include more paint and bollards, making the treatment much more visible, and will be placed further back from the signal to create more space for people to enter the left turn lane. While exact locations are still being determined, we plan to focus initially on intersections along 122nd Avenue, to begin addressing the many safety issues that planners are working on in the 122nd Avenue Plan. If the treatments are effective, we will add more at other intersections along the High Crash Network.
As we tackle safety issues on the road, we want to know what you think of them. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or suggestions about the center turn lane delineation.