Confused drivers get crosswise at Malfunction Junction

Regarding the intersection of Floor-EE-da Road and East Third Avenue: Why is there no clear signage about who goes first? If I’m turning left from Floor-EE-da onto Third, no one seems to know what to do – slow, stop, yield or go. Everyone looks puzzled. Many drivers just barrel through figuring “if you snooze, you lose.” Snoozing can, at best, get somebody honking at you, and at worst, get you rear-ended. But going can risk getting broadsided from two directions. Shouldn’t we at least have one of those silly blinking yellow arrows to confuse the situation even more? Can’t something really intelligent be done here? – Norma Byrd

Ah, the enigma that is Malfunction Junction. This is a problem for the best minds in the world, and it just so happens that Action Line’s brother-in-law has one of them.

He’s a theoretical physicist and a professor at California Institute of Technology. Seriously. And we’ll be getting together this weekend. Perhaps the intersection can be a topic of campfire chitchat.

But until that consultation, we’ll have to live with what we got, which is a whole lot better than Malfunction Junction’s configuration before the Florida Road reconstruction project.

Several readers took potshots at the new intersection’s cement islands and turn lanes. Naysayers feared the snowplows wouldn’t fit. Skeptics warned of T-bone accidents.

Surprisingly, no one linked the intersection to chem trails or the United Nation’s Agenda 21 program for sustainability.

Obviously, installing two cycling lanes, a walking path and a pedestrian crosswalk is ample evidence that the New World Order is afoot. Or abike.

So, is there a lack of signage for the intersection? Action Line dutifully checked it out Saturday morning and was surprised.

There are no fewer than 33 signs, advisories, notices and warnings posted along the approaches to Malfunction Junction – 17 signs on Florida Road from the roundabout to the intersection, 17 signs on East Third from 14th Street to the intersection, and nine signs on 15th Street from Main Avenue to the intersection.

And that doesn’t include the dozen or so street-pole banners touting the USA Pro Challenge cycling event.

Each sign serves a purpose, whether it’s informing folks about a railroad crossing, the presence of deer or how to get to the Durango School District 9-R Administration Building.

Many signs are required by law. Yet a case could be made that there are too many signs. When there are too many signs, it creates “visual noise” that people tune out.

That being said, the intersection is well marked – sort of.

People driving up East 15th approaching the intersection have the right of way, so there is no sign needed.

Drivers on East Third are informed twice that the right lane must turn right and left lane must turn left. At the intersection, there is no mistaking the stop and yield signs.

The problem is the Florida Road traffic. Sure, there is a big ol’ sign that says “Left Lane Yield to Oncoming Traffic.” But the blinking yellow light is broken. Action Line will contact the city’s street department first thing this morning about that.

However, a yellow light isn’t a panacea. Many drivers turning left off Florida have difficulty seeing which lane oncoming 15th Street traffic is in. A flashing beacon isn’t going to change that.

When turning left from Florida to East Third, err on the side of caution and ignore any honking impatient malcontents.

Who knows? If this trend of cautious driving continues unabated at Malfunction Junction, the city might have to put up a couple more signs: “Horn honking prohibited.”

And nothing is more effective at enhancing quiet than by adding to the visual noise.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 80301. You can request anonymity if you knew there are three ‘bike lane’ signs on Florida Road from the roundabout to Malfunction Junction and only one telling cars what to do at the intersection.

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