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Traffic Q&A: Why no dedicated right-turn lane from Pacific onto eastbound 38th?

Q: Why is there no dedicated right-turn lane from northbound Pacific Avenue onto eastbound 38th Street? Erin I., Tacoma

A: Before we move into the “answer” portion of our column, let us let Erin expound for a bit, shall we?

Says she:

“It seems from casual observation that significantly more of the northbound traffic intends to turn right at that intersection, and yet, day after day, there’s often a single northbound vehicle in the right-hand lane, preventing many, many cars from even being able to make a right turn on red after stopping.”

Erin might call it “casual observation,” but we suspect she watches that intersection like a hawk.

Here’s more from her:

“Because eastbound and westbound 38th also get their own separate signals through the intersection, it would seem to be obvious that a dedicated right-turn lane with a green-arrow signal would make possible vastly more efficient movement through this intersection and cut down on the amount of traffic idling (and producing emissions) for no good reason.

“Also, it’s not a matter of space. There’s an empty field that has been for sale/development adjacent to this exact location for years.”

The woman has game.

Luckily for us here at Traffic Q&A headquarters, Tacoma city traffic engineer Joshua Diekmann is game to tackle tough questions. Yeah, that was bad. Sorry.

Anyhow, here’s what the inestimable Mr. Diekmann had to say:

“As the reader noted, there are a large number of northbound right turns at 38th and Pacific. While some of these right turns were the result of the I-5 HOV project and the closure of the Pacific Avenue bridge, long-term forecasts indicate that traffic flow could be improved by the addition of a dedicated lane for northbound right turns.”

Point to Erin.

Continued Diekmann:

“The city will add a project at this intersection to the city’s transportation plan; this will allow the city to consider improvements at this location as grants become available or development occurs.”

Action initiated!

But hold your hybrids. It might be a while, as Diekmann explains:

“The project to add a right turn lane will require reconstruction of part of the traffic signal and acquisition of part of the vacant property mentioned by the reader as additional right of way. Since this intersection is part of state Route 7, the city will discuss these improvements with the state Department of Transportation.”

And … the letdown, per Diekmann:

“Until a construction project can add lanes to the intersection, the city does not plan on making permanent changes to how the existing lanes are used — analyses show that the current lane allocation is the most efficient configuration.

“Short-term modifications, however, may be considered to accommodate shifting traffic patterns during the McKinley Avenue bridge closure and the city’s upcoming planned improvements within the Lincoln Business District.”

We’ll keep our fingers crossed, Erin.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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