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Drivers, UDOT adjusting to new flex lanes in Taylorsville

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 21 2012 12:28 p.m. MST

Flex lane lights operate along 5400 South Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, in Taylorsville.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — Drivers and the Utah Department of Transportation are adjusting to a new traffic system that debuted earlier this month.

Flex lanes were activated Nov. 7 on 5400 South in Taylorsville with the intent at reducing gridlock. It is estimated that 40,000 cars travel the road every day, and the stretch has been prone to traffic jams.

The road, which has seven lanes, alternates the direction of an extra lane during peak hours in the morning and the evening. Eastbound drivers get four lanes in the morning, while westbound motorists have four lanes in the evening. During off-peak hours, each direction gets three lanes with a center turn lane.

The direction of the lanes is indicated by overhead LED lights, and that is what UDOT is adjusting.

UDOT discovered the LED lights are so bright that they outshined the traffic signals at the intersections, which confused motorists. So shortly after activating the system, UDOT turned off the green lights closest to the intersections on the outer two lanes.

"The intent there is to give the driver more clarity at the intersection to better tell whether they've got a green light or a red light," said UDOT project manager Brandon Weston. "We turned these lights off to try to highlight the intersection lights."

UDOT also decided that those outer green arrows are redundant because they always point in the direction of traffic. The agency said it will take the indicators down in the next few weeks.

Some drivers expressed difficulty with the road's new layout.

"I just feel like people get more confused and frustrated with the flex lanes, really," said motorist Kaila Fambrough, who said she has a harder time getting to her home with the new system. "I just don't understand why this has to be like a freeway here in the middle of a residential area."

"Probably, eventually it'll be OK, but for now it's very confusing for me," said Marissa Moody, who said she often drives on the stretch of road.

Weston acknowledged room for improvement and said UDOT intends to continue evaluating the system and making more adjustments as necessary.

"We did anticipate there would be tweaks as we turned the system on, and we're constantly learning as we monitor the system closely," Weston said. "Some people felt there was just too much going on. This was a lot of change for this corridor to undergo in a short amount of time."

He said another goal of the system is to draw motorists, many of whom have been using other routes due to road work, back to 5400 South.

"We have seen traffic utilizing that new lane to capacity, and I think that's step one," Weston said. "Step two will be to get the traffic back to this corridor that's been avoiding it because of construction over the past couple years, and then we'll really know what the benefit has been.

"I would just encourage people to slow down as they get used to it," he said. "Make sure you're in the right lane. Be cognizant that the left turn lane does change based on the configuration. Just take some time until you're comfortable with it."

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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