Did You Know? Traffic Loons

Posted by on Apr 17, 2018

By: Diane Hammonds, P.E. / Branch Manager / LA office

Some of us know about the birds called loons, but as traffic engineers we have loons too!  A loon is also referred to as a “Michigan Left” because of their wide use there.  It is pavement constructed outside of the travel lane to allow for vehicles to make a U-turn.

It is another tool in the toolbox.  As roadways become congested one of the recommendations explored is to eliminate left turn movements from side street and driveway connections.  In order to do that, we often install U-turn locations in the medians.  This means a vehicle would make a right turn from a side street or driveway connection and proceed to a U-turn location to head in the desired direction.

An existing loon on US-280 in Birmingham

Sain has proposed installation of loons at several strategic locations along US-431 in Marshall County. This configuration decreases the opportunities for crashes and typically reduces the severity of the crashes that do occur.  It is usually found that the amount of time it takes for a driver to turn right and U-turn is very similar if not less than that of drivers waiting for a gap in traffic sufficient to make the direct left turn. The “loon” provides the pavement necessary to make the U-turn maneuver without going off the road.

While the name is loony… its purpose is not!

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