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MnDOT crews changed out traffic lights at the Hy 149 and Hy110 intersection Wednesday morning. The new signalling setup will include a new-to-Minnesota flashing yellow arrow, that allows motorists to turn left if the coast is clear.

David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Flashing yellow arrows in MnDOT's quiver

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW
  • Star Tribune
  • December 3, 2012 - 7:43 PM

Traffic lights sporting a new feature -- flashing yellow arrows -- are starting to multiply in cities and towns across Minnesota as part of the nation's quest to keep cars moving.

On Monday, the Minnesota Department of Transportation added the flashing yellow arrows to signals at the intersection of Hwy. 65 and Bunker Lake Boulevard in Ham Lake, said T.K. Kramascz, a MnDOT spokesperson. The department will include the feature when it installs or replaces traffic signals.

The flashing arrows allow motorists to make left turns after yielding to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Unlike with a solid yellow arrow, oncoming traffic will still have a green light, so drivers turning left must wait for a safe gap in the traffic.

Traffic studies show that the arrows lower driver confusion and keep traffic moving.

"Why wait at a red arrow when there is a gap?" Kramascz asked.

Flashing yellow arrows first appeared in Minnesota in 2006 as an experiment. But now that they are approved by the Federal Highway Administration they are becoming the new standard for controlled intersections.

According to a survey of cities, towns and counties, there are now more than 133 intersections that feature the flashing yellow arrow.

In recent months, Bloomington began adding the signals, joining Eden Prairie, Burnsville, Blaine, Woodbury, Eagan and other metro cities.

The arrows are no more expensive to install than signals with the traditional solid turn arrows, said Jerry Kotzenmacher, a MnDOT traffic systems specialist. Simple installations begin at about $10,000 but can reach up to $200,000, depending on the complexity of the intersection.

"We will only install them if there is a benefit in terms of traffic efficiency and it's fiscally responsible," he said.

Kramascz said the arrows have been popular with drivers, and some cities have sent requests for the arrows to MnDOT.

Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 Twitter: @timstrib

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