Drive reader Jack had seen signs announcing that some traffic lights along County Road 96 through Shoreview, North Oaks, Vadnais Heights and White Bear Lake had been outfitted with flashing yellow arrows, and he waited all fall for them to be activated.

Well, Ramsey County Public Works has a holiday gift for Jack (and other drivers): The flashing yellow arrows are working.

It turned them on the first week of December. That means drivers, at least during nonpeak travel times, won’t have that interminable wait for a green arrow when making a left at some intersections. If the yellow turn arrow is blinking, clear motorists can go.

The new flashing yellow left turn arrows were installed at a dozen intersections: Hamline Avenue, Lexington Avenue, Victoria Street, Snail Lake Boulevard, Hodgson Street, Village Center Drive, Rice Street, McMenemy Street, Greenhaven Drive, Centerville Road, White Bear Parkway and Otter Lake Road.

Signs telling drivers to “Yield on Flashing Yellow” went up a few months ago, and that’s when people began wondering when the flashing arrows would be implemented, said Erin Laberee, a Ramsey County traffic engineer.

The delay came as the county was finishing a signal timing project looking at the number of cars at each intersection and figuring how much green-light time to give motorists turning onto County 96 from side streets.

That “took longer than we thought it would,” she said. “That’s why there was a delay. People should be happy.”

The Federal Highway Administration approved the use of flashing yellow arrows in the mid-2000s, and they have been added as old traffic signals are replaced. At last count, MnDOT had 200 on metro area roads. Hennepin County had them at 143 intersections under its control.

Here is how they work: Drivers in a left-turn lane encountering a solid red arrow must stop and wait. A motorist may proceed when shown a green arrow, which allows a protected turn while oncoming traffic sees red.

Flashing yellow arrows allow motorists to make what’s called a “permitted turn,” meaning the driver must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The yellow is meant to remind motorists to use caution in case oncoming traffic also has a green light.

Flashing arrows are not the only signal upgrades that should make travel smoother for the 20,000 to 30,000 drivers who use County Road 96 between Interstate 35W and Hwy. 61.

The county also retimed and connected the signals so they “talk to one another.” The goal is to keep traffic moving, allowing motorists who leave one intersection to keep going without stopping at the next, said Ramsey County Public Works Director Ted Schoenecker.

Why redundant signs?

Another upgrade along County Road 96 recently had drivers seeing double.

For a few weeks, new signs designating cross streets, speed limits and turn lanes were placed immediately in front of identical signs conveying the same information.

Crews installed the duplicate signs to meet new size requirements and reflect better at night, so drivers can see them more easily.

The double placement was on purpose. They used the location of the original signs to put new signs in the same place, Schoenecker said.

The old signs are gone now, leaving just the new ones standing.

 

Follow news about traffic and commuting at the Drive on startribune.com. Got traffic or transportation questions, or story ideas? E-mail drive@startribune.com, tweet @stribdrive or call Tim Harlow at 612-673-7768.