Ask The Advocate: Right turn on red at unique intersection

Advocate file photo by Richard Alan Hannon -- This photograph was taken in June 2006 of Airline Highway at the Siegen Lane/Sherwood Forest interchange just after the new interchange opened. A line of traffic stopped on Sherwood Forest Boulevard is depicted at the bottom of the photograph. To the far right, a black SUV is about to make a right turn off a Show caption
Advocate file photo by Richard Alan Hannon -- This photograph was taken in June 2006 of Airline Highway at the Siegen Lane/Sherwood Forest interchange just after the new interchange opened. A line of traffic stopped on Sherwood Forest Boulevard is depicted at the bottom of the photograph. To the far right, a black SUV is about to make a right turn off a "feeder" road and onto Airline. At the center of the photo, cars are making left turns off Airline onto a "feeder" lane that take them to Sherwood Forest.

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What are the rules of the road with respect to turning “right on red” at an intersection that isn’t a normal 90-degree intersection? Specifically, if one wants to turn right onto Airline Highway from Sherwood Forest Boulevard, the driver is directed onto a short feeder road that terminates at a traffic light. The angle of the intersection makes the “turn” more of a merge than anything else. I’ve watched numerous drivers either treat it as a normal intersection, turning right on red, and numerous others treat it as a light-controlled merge, waiting for the light to change to green before going. So which is it?

Dustin Annison of the Department of Transportation and Development said that in Louisiana, except when a sign prohibits a turn, vehicular traffic facing a steady red signal may cautiously enter an intersection to turn right after stopping to check for oncoming traffic, he said, citing Louisiana statute RS 32:232 (3) (c).

The law, he said, also says that any vehicle wanting to turn right on red at this intersection can do so after the driver first makes a complete stop and then yields to other traffic already traveling on Airline.

This intersection, particularly for those turning left off Airline onto Sherwood Forest Boulevard and Siegen Lane, was considered innovative in March 2006 when it first opened.

Drivers turning left off Airline are directed to left turn lanes — which cross oncoming traffic stopped by a light — about 350 feet before the actual intersection and proceed with the turn by traveling down two feeder lanes that run next to Airline.

The unusual configuration was considered very rare in the United States at the time and was modeled after designs used in Mexico. State and local officials said the project cost $4.4 million and helped reduce what had become a 4-minute wait at the traffic light to a 30-second wait.

The cost was considered low compared to other traffic improvement projects.

The intersection serves motorists headed to Ascension Parish, New Orleans, the Sherwood Forest subdivision to the east and commercial establishments along Seigen to the west.

Send questions to Ask The Advocate, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821-0588; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0297; or email asktheadvocate@theadvocate.com.