Corridors with growing traffic volumes and high crash rates are good candidates for a reduced-conflict intersection – sometimes referred to as a superstreet, a synchronized street or a median U-turn.
A reduced-conflict intersection is a general term used to describe several types of designs that can be used to improve safety and traffic flow on a highway.
Although there are variations to the designs, they all function the same by cutting more than half the potential locations, or conflict points, where drivers and pedestrians can collide – hence the term “reduced-conflict intersection.”
Simplifying How Traffic Moves
Examples of Reduced-Conflict Intersections
With the most common type of reduced-conflict intersection design, drivers on the main road follow their usual paths, but raised medians redirect drivers from the side road into turning right.
When there is a safe opening in traffic, drivers turn right to easily enter the flow of traffic on the main route. To go the other direction, or cross the highway, they pull into a dedicated lane, typically less than 1,000 feet away, to make a U-turn. There might be a traffic signal at this location.
Reducing the Risk of Crashes
A traditional four-way intersection has many conflict points where a crash can occur. Because drivers can go in any direction from all four approaches, the likelihood of a crash is increased at a traditional intersection.
2010 from North Carolina State University and in
2017 from the Federal Highway Administration found that:
Reduced-conflict intersections without traffic signals reduced crashes 46 percent compared to conventional intersections.
Reduced-conflict intersections with traffic signals reduced crashes 15 percent compared to conventional intersections.
If an intersection has a traffic signal, several signal phases are required to move vehicles through the intersection, which increases the time it takes drivers to go through the intersection.
The 2010 N.C. State University report, however, found there was still a 20 percent travel time savings on a signalized reduced-conflict intersection corridors compared to conventional corridors with traffic signals.
Other Benefits of Reduced-Conflict Intersections
In addition to simplifying how traffic moves and reducing the risk of wrecks, reduced-conflict intersections also:
Safe Access for Businesses
Reduced-conflict intersection corridors in North Carolina serve many thriving businesses.
According to the 2010 N.C. State University report, a survey of several hundred business owners across the state found there was no significant difference in self-reported revenues between businesses on roads where medians were built versus those without medians.
The same survey also found that businesses had a more favorable perception of medians after they were built, and 58 percent of businesses reported that their number of customers stayed the same or increased after the median installation.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you own a “destination” business, your customers already are planning to visit you, and they will expect to get in and out easily without much congestion. For convenience-oriented businesses that are more impulsive stops, many factors affect the success of a business.
The price, service and product will more likely influence a customer than direct access to your store. And you may experience more traffic going by your business after medians are built, because some drivers who are making U-turns will be going by your business when they would not otherwise do so before the median was built.
Several states have conducted “before-and-after” studies of businesses where medians and reduced-conflict intersections were built. According to a 2006 Federal Highway Administration report titled “Safe Access is Good for Business,” the vast majority of businesses owners in those studies said they did as well or better after access management projects, like reduced-conflict intersections, were built.
The Federal Highway Administration also has reported medians did not appear to harm property values where they were installed in Florida, Minnesota and Texas.
More recently, the Louisiana Transportation Research Center determined in a final report published in November 2019 for the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development that customer sales overall increased at 10 locations where a design similar to a reduced-conflict intersection was built. The study compared the sites two years before the highway projects and two years after their construction. The decline reported at a few locations was likely due to increased competition from new businesses in the same vicinity.
According to a statewide report conducted by researchers at N.C. State University and prepared for the N.C. Department of Transportation in 2010, a survey of several hundred business owners across North Carolina found there was no significant difference in self-reported revenues between businesses on roads with medians versus those without medians. The same survey also found that businesses had a more favorable perception of medians after they were built, and 58 percent of them said the number of their customers rose or stayed the same after the median installation.
The N.C. Department of Transportation always seeks to minimize disruptions to traffic and business activity during road construction. The department will maintain customer access and deliveries to businesses for the duration of a construction project.
Additionally, NCDOT representatives will keep businesses regularly informed of construction schedules that may affect them. Customers will understand that road
construction is temporary.
Raised medians and reduced-conflict intersections better manage access to the main road by redirecting drivers from minor movements. The medians and reduced-conflict intersection designs lower crash rates, boost safety and improve traffic flow—even when traffic volumes grow. There are variations of reduced-conflict intersection designs.