Innovative U-Turns Bring Safety, Efficiency to Community

Awards, Projects | March 26, 2021


Photo of U-Turn signs at SR 272 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania

LANCASTER COUNTY, PA — Containing several of the “top 25” accident intersections in the state, safety concerns regarding Section 037 of State Road (SR) 272 in Lancaster County prompted the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to initiate an improvement project. Designed by Benesch, SR 272’s innovative design balances the community need for efficient motor vehicle and horse and buggy traffic flow with the safety improvements necessary for the high-speed corridor.

The improvement project for the two-mile section was motivated by several concerns, including high crash rates, elevated vehicle speeds, increased crash severity, substandard levels of service for side road approaches, and travel of the Plain Sect (Amish) community.

“To improve safety and traffic patterns along SR 272 and several intersecting side roads, Benesch designed the first application of its kind for median U-turns (MUT) and restricted crossing U-turns (RCUT) in Pennsylvania,” explained Benesch Project Manager Ryan Fasnacht.

Photo of innovative U-Turns throughout the two-mile section of SR 272, which increase safety and efficiency for the corridor’s unique variety of users.

Innovative U-Turns throughout the two-mile section of SR 272 increase safety and efficiency for the corridor’s unique variety of users.

Benesch completed designs for improvements to four intersections: Byerland Church Road, Mt. Hope School Road, Pennsy Road and Mt. Airy Road. MUTs and RCUTs were implemented to eliminate crossing movement and address the significant number of accidents.

Safety was further improved by the installation of overhead lighting and provisions for the Plain Sect community. To accommodate horse and buggy travel, shoulders were widened where permitted to allow the buggies to traverse the RCUT design, and pavement areas were enhanced with maximum delineation for merging buggies and other driver movements.

The intersections were designed to work together to more safely get the traveling public to their destination, but the proposed improvements were met with apprehension from the community.

“Because it’s an innovative design that changed travel patterns, we had to explain it in many different ways [to the public],” said Fasnacht.

Instrumental to the success of the project was careful communication with the community. Nexa Castro, PennDOT Senior Project Manager, headed the public involvement effort to keep local officials and the public well-informed and to give the community stakeholders a voice. For her work on the project, Castro won the WTS Central Pennsylvania 2021 Innovative Transportation Solutions Award.

Castro and the Benesch team explored community member concerns, made refinements to the design, and supported the design’s alternative aspects with Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) guidance, case study data, and other state’s design guidance.

“The municipality indicated they did not want roundabouts constructed, so we worked to develop an alternative approach,” said Fasnacht. “The RCUT design eliminates cross movement, meaning drivers on the minor road no longer need to traverse an intersection with two directions of traffic. Conflict points are reduced by nearly 50%.”

Delivered on time and within budget, the improvement project maintained mobility throughout the corridor during construction while improving safety conditions for travelers. With construction completed in late 2020, early results indicate the project is successfully functioning and addresses the needs with positive results.

Learn more about Castro’s award-winning approach to this Benesch-designed project in the video below.