I haven't seen any wrong-way drivers on Huron street since I wrote about the problem late last month, but then again, I haven't driven Huron at night much since then. The multiple occasions when I observed wrong-way traffic on the one-way section south of The Blade have tended to be well after dark, possibly involving drivers who don't visit downtown much but were in Toledo for nightlife or to attend an event at the Huntington Center or Fifth Third Field.
This is what the intersection of Huron and Adams looked like to a northbound motorist on Huron on Dec. 14, the night that a wrong-way car and a TARTA bus collided at Huron and Jackson. You can see the bus and the police-car lights at the distant intersection. Two of the three Do Not Enter signs on the traffic-signal posts are also fairly obvious, but what most dramatically stands out is the green from the traffic lights -- the glare from which is obscuring the third Do Not Enter sign, mounted in between them.
I'm generally not a believer in spending a lot of public money for extra signs and lights to coddle motorists who, if they would just put their cell phones down and stop trying to fix their hair or read magazines while driving, could get by just fine with their eyes and ears devoted to watching the road ahead. But the transition on Huron Street from two-way to one-way traffic is a very unusual situation, and that makes me more sympathetic to drivers who run afoul of it. And run afoul of this one they do. When I mentioned to co-workers that I was working on this story, several told me they, too, have seen wrong-way drivers on the one-way section. A few said they avoid Huron Street entirely because of that.
The article also inspired an e-mail exchange with Larry Robinson, a computer instructor at a technical college in Indiana whose research includes traffic-signal systems and who also apparently has a deep personal interest in traffic engineering. He reinforced what city officials told me for the article: that green arrows left and right in place of the full green signals shown in the picture would not be permissible under the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices. The reason is that an arrow of any kind signifies a "protected movement" with no other traffic having a conflicting right-of-way, and that includes pedestrian traffic. With a full green, motorists making a turn are required to yield to opposing traffic or pedestrians in crosswalks, but a motorist whose movement is governed by an arrow is presumed to have exclusive right-of-way. In practice, I'm not sure that makes much of a difference in Toledo, which seems plagued with earbud-wearing walkers who pay little attention to the traffic lights and walk signals when they step out into traffic, but the legal ramifications are clear.
What, then, to do? The city says those Do Not Enter signs on the signal masts are highly reflective -- something my puny cell-phone camera's picture doesn't represent, but which was proven as I drove away and stepped on my brakes to see how well that showed up on the signs -- and thus should be sufficient warning for drivers. But I'm not convinced they're adequate, especially considering the arena is little more than a block away and a significant amount of downtown Toledo nightlife is not too much farther down Huron. Put an unfamiliar driver on that street, at night, possibly on a cell-phone asking somebody for directions home, and you've got a recipe for trouble.
My modest proposal: replace one of those Do Not Enter signs with an LED model that is either continuously lit, lit only at night, or lit only when the light is green or yellow. Mr. Robinson says the latter two options would violate the traffic-control manual, because having such a sign lit only part-time would suggest a straight movement is legal at other times. My take is that there would still be Do Not Enter signs present at all times, and by lighting up only when the stoplight is green or yellow -- my preferred option -- such a sign's attention-getting value would be maximized. But if Mr. Robinson is right, I'd certainly be satisfied with a continuously lit Do Not Enter sign or, as a cheaper alternative, adding blinking red LEDs to the borders of one or more of the existing Do Not Enter signs in a fashion similar to many rural Stop signs in the Toledo area. Either would give inattentive or confused drivers an extra warning about an unusual, and dangerous, traffic pattern that apparently is going to be around for a few years until the city is ready to convert the rest of Huron Street to two-way traffic.