Dr. Traffic

Traffic at Carmel and Johnston roads creates time to imagine something better

Notice the interest in the left lane on Carmel Road on the approach to Johnston Road. This promped one reader to suggest changing the left through lane to a left turn lane.
Notice the interest in the left lane on Carmel Road on the approach to Johnston Road. This promped one reader to suggest changing the left through lane to a left turn lane. Google Maps

What to do when you’re sitting in traffic – again – at the same location where you sat in traffic the day before and the year before that?

Some of us begin to look for a way out of the mess, once and for all.

We’re natural planners, some of us, and it’s only logical to look for ways to make little adjustments, for the greater good.

That’s what Daniel Laurent of South Charlotte has been up to during slowdowns at Carmel and Johnston roads, he told me in a letter.

Laurent’s big concern is southbound Carmel on the approach to Johnston. Carmel has four lanes there: one for left turns, two for going straight and one for right turns.

Laurent ultimately decided that one left turn lane on southbound Carmel isn’t enough.

“The ratio of cars seeking to turn left (onto southbound Johnston) is at least 20 times the number wanting to go straight,” he said. “There is – I believe – a big potential improvement without spending a great deal of money.”

He suggests changing the left through lane into a second left-turn lane.

“That leaves one lane to turn right onto Johnston Road going north and one lane to go straight through the intersection,” he explained. “The cost to make the improvement would be minimal, and traffic flow on Johnston Road would be improved as more time could be given at the light in favor of Johnston.”

His traffic counts are unofficial, of course. Still, his argument sounds pretty good in theory. I looked at the intersection using Google Maps, and most of the scant traffic that I could see was in the left lane. Coincidence?

I asked Linda Durrett at Charlotte Department of Transportation whether Laurent’s idea was worth considering. She talkedwith others in her department to find out whether there have been other concerns about traffic there.

Turns out CDOT looked at the intersection’s traffic patterns about five years ago, Durrett said. Traffic data at that time suggested that travelers might be waiting two cycles to make a left turn in peak morning hours. Most vehicles did not have to wait two cycles, the data showed. Other times of the day, the single left turn lane handled the traffic, Durrett said.

So dual left lanes on southbound Carmel might improve morning traffic, but the change Laurent suggested might be a problem at other times.

“The other 22 hours of the day would not be improved, and many would find themselves waiting longer to turn left,” Durrett said. “Those coming from the south to make a left would especially feel the negative impacts. So in the final analysis, we did not make the change at that time.”

But that’s not the end of the story. It’s been five years, and Durrett said the department is willing to take another look. And you can thank Dan Laurent for that.

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