VDOT installing new type of traffic signals

Stephen Igo • Sep 23, 2015 at 8:07 AM

BRISTOL -- Motorists in Southwest Virginia will be getting accustomed to a new type of traffic signal at a dozen locations starting in October, the Virginia Department of Transportation's Bristol District announced on Monday.

The expansion of the new traffic signals that include a flashing yellow arrow, will be added to U.S. Alt. Route 58 at three intersections in the Pennington Gap area of Lee County, U.S. Business Route 23 in the Gate City area of Scott County, and U.S. Route 23 in the Appalachia area of Wise County.

Other locations include six intersections between Bristol and Abingdon along U.S. Route 11 in Washington County, and U.S. Route 11 at Lowe's in Abingdon.

The flashing yellow arrow signal is currently used at the intersection of U.S. Route 11 and State Route 107 in Chilhowie, and the intersection of Business Route 19 and State Route 71 in Lebanon.

The new traffic signal system displays four arrows to regulate traffic flow: a red arrow means stop, a steady yellow arrow means the signal is preparing to change, a flashing yellow arrow means drivers may turn left after yielding to oncoming traffic, and a green arrow means the driver has the right of way to make a left turn.

Signs advising 'left turn yield on flashing yellow arrow' will be installed temporarily at all signal locations for 30 days to communicate the change.

VDOT said flashing yellow arrows are more effective than the more common circular green light and other signals at conveying to drivers the need to yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians when making a left turn.

Studies indicate that after a short learning period the flashing yellow signals are better understood and obeyed, and are safer. A flashing yellow arrow is more intuitive for communicating to drivers the need to yield to oncoming traffic than a solid green light, VDOT said.

The $280,000 flashing yellow arrow project is expected to wrap up by early next year, VDOT said. Motorists are advised when VDOT crews replace signal heads to be alert to lane closures and pay close attention to highway workers.