Plano Star-courier > News
Median left turn meets its fate: Controversial intersection design nixed by council
The city of Plano prides itself on being innovative and a leader among Texas cities. However, that forward-thinking philosophy has not always been met with positive responses.
Such was the case in August 2010 when the city modified the intersection of Preston Road and Legacy Boulevard. The median left-turn model requires drivers turn right onto Preston and then perform a U-turn, rather than simply turning left off of Legacy.
The intersection debut was met with great fanfare and claims that it would increase traffic flow and make the intersection safer for motorists. While the numbers appear to back up these claims, members of the City Council are now singing a different tune and have put the brakes on plans to convert two more intersections.
"There is no more unifying cause in Plano than the disdain for that intersection," said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Ben Harris.
Gerald Cosgrove, public works director, said the intersection operates smoother than it did prior to the conversion and there are fewer accidents. However, he admitted that many drivers have not accepted the changes and have changed their travel patterns to avoid the area.
Cosgrove did say, however, that it is not possible to attribute the smoother flow of traffic solely to the new left turn design.
"The one thing we have to remember about Legacy and Preston is that originally we had only two lanes in each direction," Cosgrove said. "With this project we added a third lane, and that is probably what you see as much as the other improvements. I think as traffic increases in the future it will provide more and more benefit."
One of the most outspoken critics of the plan is Mayor Phil Dyer, whose office is located at the southwest corner of the intersection. He said his biggest criticism is the additional lanes were not given a chance to improve traffic flow before the left-turn configuration was changed.
"We ask people who have never seen this before in their lives to not turn left where they think they should so they go through [the intersection] and then we have illegal U-turn signs at the next couple of places," Dyer said. "It is like they are in a maze that they can't escape.
"I think it is very citizen-unfriendly thing if you live here, and if you are a visitor to our community it is really insulting because we are going to give you a ticket if you do what you have done your whole life."
The opposition to the median left turn was unanimous among the eight-member council, with Andre Davidson saying the intersection was so odd it felt like she was driving in a foreign land.
With no council support for the proposed median left turns at Preston and Plano Parkway, and Spring Creek Parkway and Coit Road, the city will instead install additional lanes to increase traffic flow. Cosgrove said the intersection improvements should begin in 2015 and take less than a year, although both projects may not occur at the same time.
There are no plans to return the median left turn at Preston and Legacy to a normal left-turn configuration.