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FHWA Home / Safety / Intersection / Intersection Safety

U-Turn-based Intersections

Outreach & Education
Technical Materials
Other Resources
State & Federal Research
National Partners

Motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists face greater mobility challenges and safety risks at intersections as traffic volumes grow and congestion worsens. Agencies need safer, more balanced designs that keep people moving. Innovative intersection designs offer many safety and operational benefits, and are being built more often because they can deliver more for less. In the case of U-Turn-based intersection designs, certain movements that are higher risk – such as direct left-turns – are modified to a combination of right-turns and U-turns. The two most common forms of innovative, U-turn-based intersections are the Median U-Turn (MUT) and the Restricted Crossing U-Turn (RCUT). The diagrams below illustrate the basic U-turn concepts. The figure on the left illustrates the MUT design, where Path A corresponds to the left turn from the major route to the minor route and Path B corresponds to the left turn from the minor route to the major route. The figure on the right illustrates the RCUT design, where Path A corresponds to a through movement along the minor route and Path B corresponds to the left turn from the minor route to the major route.

Diagram: U-Turn Path A = From Jajor Route: Left Turn = Straight + U-Turn + Right Turn & Path B = From Minor Route: Left Tunr = Right Turn + U-Turn   RCUT Diagram of U-Turn

Innovative intersection designs succeed through reducing the number and severity of conflict points. The diagram below illustrates the difference in conflict points between a conventional, four-legged intersection and equivalent MUT and RCUT designs. There are 32 conflict points associated with a conventional intersection – 8 merging (or joining), 8 diverging (or separating) and 16 crossing. In contrast, there are 16 total conflict points at the MUT (4 crossing, 6 merging and 6 diverging) and 14 total conflict points at the RCUT (2 crossing, 6 merging and 6 diverging). Not only are conflict points reduced by half for the MUT and RCUT, the conflicts that remain are lesser overall severity – mostly the same-direction variety with less likelihood of severe injury.

Vehicle-Vehicle
Conflict Points
Conventional MUT RCUT
Diamgram Legend: Black = Crossing, Gray = Merging, White = Diverging Diagram: Diagram: Diagram:
Crossing 16 4 2
Merging 8 6 6
Diverging 8 6 6
Total 32 16 14

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Outreach and Education

Because innovative intersections generally look or function differently from conventional designs, it is important for outreach and education to take place. These conversations begin by communicating the magnitude and importance of the intersection safety challenge. With roughly ¼ of all traffic fatalities in the United States associated with intersections, it is critical that safer designs are implemented as widely and routinely as possible. But safer designs must also keep people and goods moving. To help state and local road agencies advance innovative intersection designs, the FHWA produces materials intended to communicate their advantages and benefits to a variety of different audiences. These resources are conveniently listed and linked below:

  1. plus symbol Information Videos

    • Alternative Intersections: Median U-Turns Informational Video [YouTube]
    • Alternative Intersections: Restricted Crossing U-Turn Informational Video [YouTube]
    • Video Case Study: Median U-Turn – Michigan Avenue at South Harrison Road, East Lansing MI [YouTube]
    • Video Case Study: Median U-Turn – Woodward Avenue at East Maple Road, Birmingham MI [YouTube]
    • Video Case Study: Median U-Turn – Statewide Corridor Applications, State of Michigan [YouTube]
    • Video Case Study: Restricted Crossing U-Turn – U.S. Route 15 Corridor, Frederick County MD [YouTube]
    • Video Case Study: Restricted Crossing U-Turn – State Route 55 Bypass, Holly Springs NC [YouTube]
    • Video Case Study: Restricted Crossing U-Turn – U.S. Route 17 Corridor, Wilmington/Leland NC [YouTube]
  2. plus symbol Informational Brochures

    • Alternative Intersections: Median U-Turn Intersection [HTML] [PDF]
    • Alternative Intersections: Restricted Crossing U-Turn Intersection [HTML] [PDF]
  3. plus symbol Informational Case Studies

    • Minnesota's First Restricted Crossing U-Turn Intersections (J-Turns) [HTML] [PDF]
    • North Carolina's Experience with Restricted Crossing U-Turn Superstreets [HTML] [PDF]
    • Case Study Fact Sheet: Median U-Turn – Michigan Avenue at South Harrison Road, East Lansing MI [HTML] [PDF]
    • Case Study Fact Sheet: Median U-Turn – Woodward Avenue at East Maple Road, Birmingham MI [HTML] [PDF]
    • Case Study Fact Sheet: Median U-Turn – Statewide Corridor Applications, MI [HTML] [PDF]
    • Case Study Fact Sheet: Restricted Crossing U-Turn – U.S. Route 15 Corridor, Frederick County MD [HTML] [PDF]
    • Case Study Fact Sheet: Restricted Crossing U-Turn – State Route 55 Bypass, Holly Springs NC [HTML] [PDF]
    • Case Study Fact Sheet: Restricted Crossing U-Turn – U.S. Route 17 Corridor, Wilmington/Leland NC [HTML] [PDF]

  4. plus symbol Public Roads Magazine Articles

    • “The ABCs of Designing RCUTs”, Sep/Oct 2014, Vol. 78, No. 2 [HTML]
    • “Design at the Crossroads”, Jul/Aug 2013, Vol. 77, No. 1 [HTML]
    • “North Carolina Steps Boldly Out of Its Comfort Zone”, Jul/Aug 2013, Vol. 77, No. 1 [HTML]

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Technical Materials

Photo: Pedestrains waiting to cross intersection

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Other Resources

  1. plus symbol State Highway Agency Resources:

    • Indiana DOT – Intersection Decision Guide (Indiana, 2014) [PDF]
    • Iowa DOT/Iowa State University CTRE
      • J-Turn Intersection White Paper [PDF]
      • J-Turn Example Signing Plans [PDF] and [PDF]
      • J-Turn Example Plan Sheets [PDF]
      • J-Turn Maryland Fact-Finding Video [AVI]
      • J-Turn Posters [PDF]
    • Kentucky Transportation Cabinet/Kentucky Transportation Center
      • Congestion Toolbox: RCUT/Superstreet [HTML] RCUT/J-Turn [PDF] Median U-Turn [HTML]
      • Intersection Design Analysis Tool (IDAT) [HTML]
    • Maryland SHA – Applied Technology and Traffic Analysis Program Tools [HTML]
      • Unconventional Arterial Intersection Design Presentation [HTML] [PPT]
      • Unconventional Intersection Design Analysis (MUID) Tool [HTML]
    • Michigan DOT – Michigan Left Intersection Background [HTML] and Interactive Animation [Link]
    • Minnesota DOT – Reduced Conflict Intersection Information [HTML] and Video [YouTube]
    • Mississippi DOT – Synthesis of J-Turn Design Standards and Criteria [PDF]
    • Missouri DOT – "What is a J-Turn" Video [YouTube]
    • North Carolina DOT – Superstreet Brochure [PDF]
    • Texas DOT/Texas Transportation Institute – Mobility Strategies (Texas, 2013) [HTML]
      • Innovative Intersections – Executive Summary [PDF] – Technical Information [PDF]
      • Median U-Turn Intersections –Technical Information [PDF]
    • Utah DOT – Innovative Intersections and Interchanges Videos [YouTube]

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State & Federal Research

National Partners

Page last modified on February 1, 2017
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