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So a Driver’s in the Right (Lane), so Why Stop Traffic?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dear Street Smart: As long as everyone doesn’t travel the same direction at the same time of day, it will never be possible to please everyone who approaches a traffic signal. Nonetheless, there may be some isolated changes that can be made to improve the situation at little cost.

The suggestion I would like to propose pertains to two side entrances, or T-intersections, at the Meadows and the Groves developments on Jeffrey Road and Irvine Boulevard where traffic signals were recently installed.

The exits feature a left-turn lane and a right-turn lane. Each has a wire loop embedded in the pavement that tells the signal when a car is waiting to turn onto the main road.

Since a vehicle making a right turn onto the main road will have no interaction with the far-side lanes on the main road, it appears totally unnecessary for traffic on the far side of the main street to be impeded by a red light.

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In addition, since right-hand turns are normally permissible on a red light, it appears even unnecessary for the light to turn red at all in either direction on the main street.

I suggest the signals be controlled to turn red only for those vehicles exiting via a left turn onto Jeffrey Road or Irvine Boulevard.

David Melvold Irvine Yes, these sorts of pipsqueak intersections can evoke a primal scream from even the most patient motorist. And this seems a worthy suggestion. But there are some solid reasons why you won’t be seeing it embraced in Irvine anytime soon.

If there were no wire loop to trip the signal light for motorists making a right turn onto the main road, it could potentially put some of those drivers in a precarious position, noted Mark Carroll, a principal project engineer for Irvine.

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Left-turning motorists would have no problems, of course. The trouble would be with right-turners. Heavy traffic on the main road could make it tough for any but the most daring motorist to pull out. It could also lead to a real traffic jam on the side entrance if there were more than one or two cars lined up trying to turn out into traffic, Carroll said.

“Everybody deserves their fair share,” he said. “Let’s not penalize the people trying to make a right turn. Everyone should take their turn. That’s what traffic signals are all about.”

There is a way the intersections could be modified to ease the situation, but it would prove costly.

As these intersections are typically configured, motorists turning right or left out of the side entrance follow the commands of a typical round-lensed traffic light. But the signal could be changed so that right-turning motorists would get a right arrow and left-turners would get a left arrow.

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If each arrow acted independently, the signal could be adjusted so that as a right-turning motorist waited at the side entrance, only the right arrow would be triggered, keeping the left-turn lane red. Under those circumstances, the main road’s lane nearest the side entrance would get a red light, but the far lane could continue unimpeded.

These sorts of signals, unfortunately, are complex and cost quite a bit more than the typical sort of signal you now see. So don’t look for them anytime soon . . . darn it.

Dear Street Smart:

Unless the Department of Motor Vehicles has made a brand-new ruling regarding diesel cars, your assertion that all cars have to pass a smog check every other year is false.

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We sold our diesel Mercedes recently, but I remember filling out the back of the license-renewal slip stating that the car was exempt because it was a diesel. We passed the requirement every year.

Farie Momayez Mission Viejo Hey, this is the kind of situation I love. Believe it or not, we’re both right!

Until recently, the state Air Resources Board did not require a smog check for diesel passenger cars. But last year, the agency introduced a regulation mandating that diesels get an “under-hood” inspection to ensure that they are functioning properly. You must have sold your Mercedes in time to avoid the new law.

Bill Sessa, an Air Resources Board spokesman, said the new test does not involve the sort of tailpipe smog checks that are performed on gasoline-powered autos. Such a test has yet to be perfected for diesels.

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Sessa noted that diesels don’t produce a lot of the gasses that combine to form urban smog. What they do produce is particulates, the sooty-looking stuff that spews from the tailpipe when the things rev up.

The particulates one can see are not the troublesome types. They generally do little more than float to the ground. More worrisome are the microscopic particulates that can be inhaled and prove caustic to lung tissue, Sessa said.

While an occasional diesel can still be spotted on the road, California recently approved tough laws that rein in the emissions from such vehicles, Sessa said. Since then, manufacturers have been either unwilling or unable to devise models that meet the new standards. As a result, no new diesel cars have been sold in California in the past two years, Sessa said.

As for those diesels still on the road, the Air Resources Board has taken steps to clean up the fuel they burn. New regulations on the quality of diesel refined and sold in California have resulted in a reduction in the sulfur and other gook released when the fuel is burned by cars, Sessa said.

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In addition, the agency plans to begin roadside inspections of diesel trucks and busses next spring in an effort to clean up those vehicles.

Street Smart appears Mondays in the Orange County section of The Times. Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about traffic, commuting and what makes it difficult to get around in Orange County. Letters will be published in upcoming columns. No anonymous letters will be accepted. Please write to Eric Bailey, c/o Street Smart, The Times Orange County, P.O. Box 2008, Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.


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