Utah is quickly becoming a leader in the use of continuous flow intersections, known as CFIs, to cost effectively improve driving safety and congestion. In 2007, Salt Lake City became home to the fourth continuous flow intersection in the United States. Since then, a total of seven CFIs have been constructed along Bangerter Highway, with plans for an additional four CFIs to be built in 2013.
CFIs improve traffic conditions by eliminating the "left-turn" phase required by traditional intersections. During the left turn phase, all other traffic must remain stopped at an intersection while cars turning left are allowed to turn left through green arrows. CFIs eliminate this phase by creating special left turn lanes for cars to enter prior to reaching the main intersection. Cars in the special turn lanes wait at an additional midblock stop light until they are allowed to proceed simultaneously with the traffic going straight.
Although the process sounds complicated, studies show that most drivers find the CFIs relatively easy to adapt to. As the icy roads of winter advance on the state, additional benefits are realized: less car accidents on snowy roads.
The use of CFIs benefits drivers in several ways. By allowing cars turning left to proceed at the same time as cars going straight, road congestion and time delays may be significantly reduced. In addition, CFIs may eliminate the need to add new lanes, provide a nice transition between intersecting highways, are less costly than other improvements and are simple for drivers to get used to.
Potential drawbacks of CFIs are that they do require additional space for the turn lanes, need additional stoplights and may not be as pedestrian friendly as other types of intersections.
So far, the Utah Department of Transportation, or UDOT, has mainly positive things to say about the CFIs currently in place in Salt Lake City. According to UDOT, there has been a 60 percent decrease in the number of traffic accidents at the intersection of 3500 South and Bangerter Highway since the installation of a CFI in 2007. The department also estimates that by keeping traffic moving the CFI saves Utah drivers approximately 800,000 gallons of gas each year.
Like them or hate them, CFIs are here to stay. UDOT prides itself on using innovations in traffic control to improve driving and safety in the state. In addition to CFIs, drivers can also look forward to the addition of several flex lanes to Bangerter Highway in 2013.
Although these projects may cause confusion at first, the hope is that they will improve traffic efficiency and safety for years to come. In the meantime, if you are injured in a car accident make sure to contact a Utah personal injury attorney to find out if you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.