Four-way yield causes confusion

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) The four-way yield intersection downtown has been a cause of confusion for some community members.

SANDPOINT — While traffic is moving through downtown with the two-way street reversion, there is some confusion when it comes to the four-way yield sign at the intersection of First Avenue, Church Street and Bridge Street.

The roundabout at Larch Street and Boyer Avenue is four-way yield, said Ryan Luttman, city public works director, so the four-way way yield downtown is similar.

“If you are (in the roundabout) and you have the right-of-way, then you can proceed without stopping,” Luttman said. “If somebody else is in the roundabout and has the right-of-way, then you stop until there is an opening and you have the right-of-way to proceed into the intersection. First, Church and Bridge is similar with the four-way yield, except the intersection is offset, so it’s almost more oval. If you don’t have the right-of-way, you would stop until it’s open and you have the right-of-way to enter the intersection.”

As per the rules for yielding to the right-of-way, the person who enters the intersection first has the right-of-way. If two vehicles enter the intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the left must yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

The four-way yield helps traffic move at a quicker pace, particularly during certain hours of the day, Luttman said. At 8 a.m., for example, traffic traveling in or out through downtown does not have to stop. Even in the afternoon, when there is traffic going in and out of the City Beach area, it has reportedly moved faster than it did when there was a stop sign on Bridge Street, Luttmann said. City staff from the water treatment facility, as well as lifeguards and Parks and Recreation staff going in and out of City Beach, have reported traffic moving more quickly.

“And these are people who experience it on a day-to-day basis, so as far as moving traffic in and out, they’re seeing an increase in traffic flow coming from the City Beach area … reducing the wait, anyway,” Luttmann said.

Another question raised by a community member to the Daily Bee recently — What are those triangles painted on the road at each intersection? Those are yield markers, which Luttmann said many people refer to as shark’s teeth, and are found in the “Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.”

“The government recognized that there is a need for consistency amongst agencies, so that if you put up signage or symbols in one city, one county, one state, that it is consistent with the symbols or the striping that you would see in another,” Luttmann said.

The two-way streets are part of a plan laid out in the 2012 “Downtown Streets Guide” with the purpose of increasing the flow of traffic in downtown. With the revision, the Idaho Transportation Department is giving the streets back to the city, but as of Friday, Luttmann said the state has not quitclaimed the streets.

Although ITD is still technically in control of the streets, Luttmann said city crews went out and painted some of the curbs, added ADA parking spaces, arrows in the intersection and some of the signage.

Luttmann said the four-way yield intersection was part of the original concept drawings for the design, done by a firm a couple of years ago. One of the concerns of putting in a four-way stop sign rather than the yield signs, he said, is backing up traffic on First into Pine and First where the stop light was removed to accommodate the two-way street traffic.

“You can model based on assumptions, and then there is the actual traffic volumes that go in,” Luttmann said.

As part of the downtown revitalization project, most of which was cancelled until next summer, the sewer replacement that went along with the first phase of the project is scheduled for the end of August. Along with the sewer project, Century West Engineering, the city’s engineering consultant for the downtown revitalization project, will do some traffic counting in that intersection, looking at pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles, Luttmann said.

“It would have been challenging to model that intersection, had we been under construction of part of downtown, so really this is a good opportunity to look at how traffic is flowing,” Luttmann said. “... Now we can come in and take a look at that before we start the sewer project, because once we start that we are going to be detouring some traffic and it’s going to adjust some of the traffic count there.”

Mary Malone can be reached by email at and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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