That pesky ‘no turn on red’ sign by the mall was facing the wrong way this whole time

Q: Why is there a “no turn on red” sign at the intersection of South 47th Street and South Oakes Street by the Tacoma Mall?

A: A few readers asked this question, and it became one of those fun rarities in journalism where, with seriously minimal work on my part, our reporting got something tangible changed.

Up until last week, there was a “no turn on red” sign by the Tacoma Mall on South 47th Street, which affected drivers coming down South 47th Street and making a right turn to go north on South Oakes Street. The sign was, until that time, partially covered by foliage and apparently befuddled a few people.

The readers who called also complained that because of said foliage, the sign wasn’t visible to some drivers when a line of cars backs up at the red light on South 47th. So they would do what humans do: honk, throw their hands up and get frustrated when the cars in front of them were signaling but didn’t make the right on red.

I asked the city about it on a recent Thursday, and workers apparently visited the intersection that same day and removed branches that were blocking the sign.

So I filed a little brief about the “no turn on red” sign, then went on vacation for four days.

The day after I left, I got a follow-up email from the city saying that the “no turn on red” sign had — gasp — actually been facing the wrong way the whole time.

“The intent of the installation was not to provide a turn restriction on South 47th, rather the intent was to restrict right turns on red for traffic northbound on South Oakes,” a city spokeswoman said.

City workers turned the sign around. Now, there are two “no turn on red” signs approaching the intersection as you drive north on South Oakes Street, warning you not to turn right on red onto South 47th Street. The two signs are to ensure people get the message.

As for why the restriction exists in the first place, the city said it is in place to protect pedestrians trying to cross South 47th at that intersection.

“On that intersection approach, the skew of the intersection creates a very wide corner that makes it difficult for some pedestrians to navigate. The restriction on that leg was installed with the intent of making the pedestrian crossing safer,” the spokeswoman said in an earlier email. “The City is still in the process of evaluating options for other improvements at this location; with other pedestrian-safety improvements in place, the turn restriction might be removed in the future.”

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud