JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Johns Creek will be the first city in Georgia to have traffic lights that use a flashing yellow signal to indicate turn after yielding.
“It’s new to Georgia, but it’s an accepted practice throughout the country,” said Traffic Manager Tom Udell.
There are two types of left-turn signals, a protected left turn in which the light stops oncoming traffic and allows the driver to turn safely and a permissive left turn in which there is no arrow and one can turn when there’s a gap in oncoming traffic. The flashing yellow signal is a hybrid — turns are permitted after yielding to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. The closest existing traffic direction is a sign beside a traffic light telling drivers to turn left on green after yielding.
Udell said under the current system, drivers cannot see the signal for oncoming traffic. If it’s yellow on one side, one can assume it’s yellow on the other, but that’s not always the case. This leads to the “yellow trap.” With the flashing yellow signal, drivers know what they are allowed to do.
Lexington, Ky. and San Antonio, Texas have instituted the flashing yellow signal, as have the states of Missouri and North Carolina. Udell said the results show this is safer and more flexible — traffic managers can have green arrow only turns in high-usage periods and activate the flashing yellow signal in low-usage periods.
Six such signals are slated to be installed. Three will be on State Bridge Road at the St. Georgian Common, Parkway Baptist Church and Home Depot/Whole Foods intersections. Three will be on McGinnis Ferry Road at Hospital Parkway, Johns Creek Parkway and Johns Creek Town Center. The sites were chosen due to the high volume of traffic and complaints about the turn lanes. Macy’s employees in particular complained about lack of gaps in traffic to turn, because there’s no green arrow option.
Public Works Director Tom Black said the new signals would help economic development by making it easier to get into and out of commercial centers. Installing them will also show city residents the city is taking their concerns into account. Nobody likes sitting at a long light when nobody is coming.
Black said the city is 98 percent certain the signals will be installed in mid-March. The date may change based on how long City Manager John Kachmar plans for the public to be educated about the new signals before they’re activated. Other jurisdictions have put up educational signs near the signals before they’re turned on.
When asked about the costs, Black said the city already has the materials, and labor is already funded in the signal maintenance contract. It’s just a matter of using the same material in a different configuration.
When asked if more signals will be installed, Black said once the first six signals have been in place 90 to 100 days, Public Works staff will evaluate them and bring the information before Kachmar and see what direction he gives.