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Want to Convert a "Stroad" into a Vibrant Complete Street?

Transforming ugly suburban “Stroads” into walkable boulevards is a lot more possible than it used to be, thanks in large measure to what we call “Placemaking Alternative Intersections.”

Engineers want to keep people moving. Planners want to create walkable Activity Centers.  If one side wins, the other loses.  Placemaking Intersections create Win-Win! They reduce traffic signal delay, which opens opportunities to calm traffic without causing A to B drive times to increase. 

The result?  You can now “drive slower, but travel faster” (and safer) through a fantastic mixed-use district. Win-Win for both engineers and planners!

What can you learn here?

Traditional large suburban intersections have 4-phase signals:  1) EW through lanes; 2) NS through lanes; 3) EW left arrow;  4) NS left arrow. Alternative Intersections improve signal efficiency by handling left turns in some other way.  This site focuses on designs with two great attributes: 1) the achieve 3-phase or even 2-phase signals, making engineers happy; and 2) they offer an impressive "bone structure" for transforming Stroads into walkable Complete Streets!   

There are three basic “Placemaking Families” of Alternative Intersection designs explored here: 1) Quadrant Intersections, 2) U-Turns (which encompass Median U-turns, RCUT/RCI, Bowties, Teardrops, Loons, and Roundabouts), and 3) One-Way Split Intersections. See links to these topics below.

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Quadrants redirect left turns to secondary intersections where traffic is easier to manage using a backway path. Since former left-turn lanes are no longer needed, they can be converted to planted medians, pedestrian refuge, whatever you want!

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The “U-Turn” family is a catch-all phrase for designs with names such as Median U-turns, Thru-Turns, Bowties, Restricted Crossing U-Turn or Intersection (RCUT/RCI), and even roundabouts. The idea is to convert left-turns into “Right-U-Thru” or “Thru-U-Right.” 


One-way streets are often criticized as bad for walkable development.  Maybe so in historic downtowns, but when it comes to retrofitting huge suburban “Stroads” – it is hard to find a design with more to offer to struggling retail areas. It is often possible to convert a single huge arterial into two one-way streets, where each is narrow and people friendly: slower in maximum speed, but faster in A to B speed due to less signal delay. 

Use for Free! offers free tools for “rightsizing” arterial streets, including the cross-section design tool shown below. The tool uses “red / yellow / green” to guide you through context-based best-practices for walkable streets supported by the Institute of Transportation Engineers, Congress for New Urbanism, and National Association of City Transportation Officials (ITE, CNU, and NACTO)

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