Guidelines for the Conversion of Urban Four-Lane Undivided Roadways to Three-Lane Two-Way Left-turn Lane Facilities, April 2001

(2001) Guidelines for the Conversion of Urban Four-Lane Undivided Roadways to Three-Lane Two-Way Left-turn Lane Facilities, April 2001. Iowa State University


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Four-lane undivided roadways in urban areas can experience a degradation of service and/or safety as traffic volumes increase. In fact, the existence of turning vehicles on this type of roadway has a dramatic effect on both of these factors. The solution identified for these problems is typically the addition of a raised median or two-way left-turn lane (TWLTL). The mobility and safety benefits of these actions have been proven and are discussed in the “Past Research” chapter of this report along with some general cross section selection guidelines. The cost and right-of-way impacts of these actions are widely accepted. These guidelines focus on the evaluation and analysis of an alternative to the typical four-lane undivided cross section improvement approach described above. It has been found that the conversion of a four-lane undivided cross section to three lanes (i.e., one lane in each direction and a TWLTL) can improve safety and maintain an acceptable level of service. These guidelines summarize the results of past research in this area (which is almost nonexistent) and qualitative/quantitative before-and-after safety and operational impacts of case study conversions located throughout the United States and Iowa. Past research confirms that this type of conversion is acceptable or feasible in some situations but for the most part fails to specifically identify those situations. In general, the reviewed case study conversions resulted in a reduction of average or 85th percentile speeds (typically less than five miles per hour) and a relatively dramatic reduction in excessive speeding (a 60 to 70 percent reduction in the number of vehicles traveling five miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit was measured in two cases) and total crashes (reductions between 17 to 62 percent were measured). The 13 roadway conversions considered had average daily traffic volumes of 8,400 to 14,000 vehicles per day (vpd) in Iowa and 9,200 to 24,000 vehicles per day elsewhere. In addition to past research and case study results, a simulation sensitivity analysis was completed to investigate and/or confirm the operational impacts of a four-lane undivided to three-lane conversion. First, the advantages and disadvantages of different corridor simulation packages were identified for this type of analysis. Then, the CORridor SIMulation (CORSIM) software was used x to investigate and evaluate several characteristics related to the operational feasibility of a four-lane undivided to three-lane conversion. Simulated speed and level of service results for both cross sections were documented for different total peak-hour traffic, access densities, and access-point left-turn volumes (for a case study corridor defined by the researchers). These analyses assisted with the identification of the considerations for the operational feasibility determination of a four -lane to three-lane conversion. The results of the simulation analyses primarily confirmed the case study impacts. The CORSIM results indicated only a slight decrease in average arterial speed for through vehicles can be expected for a large range of peak-hour volumes, access densities, and access-point left-turn volumes (given the assumptions and design of the corridor case study evaluated). Typically, the reduction in the simulated average arterial speed (which includes both segment and signal delay) was between zero and four miles per hour when a roadway was converted from a four-lane undivided to a three-lane cross section. The simulated arterial level of service for a converted roadway, however, showed a decrease when the bi-directional peak-hour volume was about 1,750 vehicles per hour (or 17,500 vehicles per day if 10 percent of the daily volume is assumed to occur in the peak hour). Past research by others, however, indicates that 12,000 vehicles per day may be the operational capacity (i.e., level of service E) of a three-lane roadway due to vehicle platooning. The simulation results, along with past research and case study results, appear to support following volume-related feasibility suggestions for four-lane undivided to three-lane cross section conversions. It is recommended that a four-lane undivided to three-lane conversion be considered as a feasible (with respect to volume only) option when bi-directional peak-hour volumes are less than 1,500 vehicles per hour, but that some caution begin to be exercised when the roadway has a bi-directional peak-hour volume between 1,500 and 1,750 vehicles per hour. At and above 1,750 vehicles per hour, the simulation indicated a reduction in arterial level of service. Therefore, at least in Iowa, the feasibility of a four-lane undivided to three-lane conversion should be questioned and/or considered much more closely when a roadway has (or is expected to have) a peak-hour volume of more than 1,750 vehicles. Assuming that 10 percent of the daily traffic occurs during the peak-hour, these volume recommendations would correspond to 15,000 and 17,500 vehicles per day, respectively. These suggestions, however, are based on the results from one idealized case xi study corridor analysis. Individual operational analysis and/or simulations should be completed in detail once a four-lane undivided to three-lane cross section conversion is considered feasible (based on the general suggestions above) for a particular corridor. All of the simulations completed as part of this project also incorporated the optimization of signal timing to minimize vehicle delay along the corridor. A number of determination feasibility factors were identified from a review of the past research, before-and-after case study results, and the simulation sensitivity analysis. The existing and expected (i.e., design period) statuses of these factors are described and should be considered. The characteristics of these factors should be compared to each other, the impacts of other potentially feasible cross section improvements, and the goals/objectives of the community. The factors discussed in these guidelines include • roadway function and environment • overall traffic volume and level of service • turning volumes and patterns • frequent-stop and slow-moving vehicles • weaving, speed, and queues • crash type and patterns • pedestrian and bike activity • right-of-way availability, cost, and acquisition impacts • general characteristics, including - parallel roadways - offset minor street intersections - parallel parking - corner radii - at-grade railroad crossings xii The characteristics of these factors are documented in these guidelines, and their relationship to four-lane undivided to three-lane cross section conversion feasibility identified. This information is summarized along with some evaluative questions in this executive summary and Appendix C. In summary, the results of past research, numerous case studies, and the simulation analyses done as part of this project support the conclusion that in certain circumstances a four-lane undivided to three-lane conversion can be a feasible alternative for the mitigation of operational and/or safety concerns. This feasibility, however, must be determined by an evaluation of the factors identified in these guidelines (along with any others that may be relevant for a individual corridor). The expected benefits, costs, and overall impacts of a four-lane undivided to three-lane conversion should then be compared to the impacts of other feasible alternatives (e.g., adding a raised median) at a particular location.

Item Type: Departmental Report
Keywords: Left-turn lanes, Road, Guidelines for conversion
Subjects: Transportation > Research
Transportation > Roads and highways
Transportation > Design and Construction
ID Code: 2888
Deposited By: Margaret Barr
Deposited On: 24 Oct 2005
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2005

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