Two-Way Left Turn Lanes

How many times have you been driving on a roadway that has a center two-way left turn lane, only to have a vehicle turn right out of that lane in front of you?   Or how about the driver that insists on driving in that center lane to get past traffic stopped in the through lanes? (Think eastbound Tudor Road approaching Lake Otis at rush hour.)  If it startled you, caused you to take evasive action to avoid a crash or made you wonder what the meaning of a two-way left turn lane is, you are not alone!

Many motorists use this center lane as a ‘merge’ lane or just plain ignore the ‘turn’ signs and drive in the lane.  There are traffic ordinances specific to these types of violations, and for good reason.  Any vehicle action taken outside of what the lane is designated for can cause a collision.  Motorists who are traveling in the thru lanes on either side of the center two-way left turn lane have the expectation (rightfully) that no vehicles will turn right out of the lane. 

State and municipal traffic engineers designate roadways that have need of two-way left-turn lanes.  A two-way left-turn lane is a lane near the center of the roadway, set aside for the use by vehicles making left turns in both directions from the roadway.  Two-way left-turn lanes are designated by distinctive roadway markings consisting of parallel double yellow lines.  The interior line is dashed and the exterior line is solid on each side of the lane.  Left turn arrows are painted on the pavement inside the lane and at times are indicated by signage.

Anchorage Municipal code 9.22.015(c) states:  A vehicle shall not be driven in a designated two-way left-turn lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from the roadway, or when preparing for or making a turn in the opposite direction when otherwise permitted by law.  A left turn or turn in the opposite direction shall not be made from any other lane where a two-way left-turn lane has been designated.

Anchorage Municipal code 9.22.015(d) states:  A vehicle shall not be driven in excess of 150 feet in any designated two-way let-turn lane.

What does this mean to motorists?  It means that the two-way left-turn lane can only be used when making a left or a turn in the opposite direction (when a U-turn is permitted).  Additionally, once a vehicle enters a two-way left-turn lane, a motorist may not drive in excess of 150 feet.  So – for that impatient motorist insistent on getting to the Tudor/Lake Otis intersection – stay out of the center two-way left turn lane, drive in the through lane and avoid a citation (or worse, a collision)!   

Violation of this ordinance is punishable with a $75.00 fine and 2 points assessed against a drivers license.

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