Does Woodward Avenue's Newest Road Sign Clarify or Clog?

A sign installed by the Michigan Department of Transportation at the intersection of Coolidge Highway and Woodward Avenue settles one debate and raises another.

Over the years the Royal Oak Police Department has received a number of calls regarding the intersection of Coolidge Highway and Woodward Avenue. Drivers heading west on Coolidge would ring police wanting to know if it was OK to turn left on a red light after traffic cleared.

A new "No Turn on Red" traffic sign installed by the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) in mid-June definitively answers the question, but it's raising other concerns.

Mixed signals

"We would get calls from drivers saying 'I always turn left on red. Am I going to get a ticket?' and then other drivers said, 'I never turn on red and the cars behind me always start honking,' " said Sgt. Al Carter of the Royal Oak Police.

Carter said the answer used to be yes – you could turn left onto southbound Woodward Avenue on a red light once traffic cleared, but the sign has changed that.

New sign makes drivers see red

Now that the new road sign has cleared up the turning debate, drivers are calling to say without the ability to make that left on red, traffic is backing up on Coolidge and blocking northbound Woodward.

"The police and the city do not have anything to do with the sign," said City Engineer Matt Callahan, calling it problematic.

All the traffic lights in the Woodward and Coolidge area are carefully timed together to avoid congestion, Callahan said. The timing is going to have to be looked at now that the sign is there, he said.

MDOT brings in roads scholars

MDOT also has received a number of calls about the Coolidge/Woodward intersection, according to MDOT traffic safety technician Mark Brinker.

"We received complaints. People were calling in and telling us no one knows what to do," said Brinker.

Because of the dual left turn lanes and some sight distance issues with traffic heading west on Coolidge, the original intent of MDOT was to not have drivers turn left on the red light, Brinker said. The sign clarifies that position.

"We sent our signals division to study the intersection," said Brinker.

Approximately 70 percent of drivers never turned left on red – even with the honking, he said.

Brinker said MDOT will be back again this week to look at the timing of the lights and "do some tweaking if necessary."

Correction: Drivers heading west on Coolidge were confused about turning left on Woodwad Avenue.

Dan Hasley July 11, 2012 at 12:41 PM
Seems to be some confusion by the Author about directions here. "Drivers heading east on Coolidge..." - should be: Drivers heading West (or South). And later, "...sight distance issues with traffic heading west on Coolidge..." - should be: ...sight distance issues with traffic heading East (or North) on Coolidge.
l.c. July 11, 2012 at 12:55 PM
someone needs to get their directions straight!!! WEST on coolidge please!
Chris Germaine July 11, 2012 at 04:06 PM
I agree with the direction needing to be "west" on Coolidge as well. But the reason I thought we couldn't make a turn on red at that particular light was because it was a true intersection rather than a Michigan Left Turn Around. The law only allows for a right on red, not a left. My kids bought it when they were learning to drive. . .guess it made sense to them too!
Judy Davids (Editor) July 11, 2012 at 04:19 PM
You are RIGHT! It is west. I will fix that now. Thanks.
They shouldn't even need a sign! July 11, 2012 at 05:25 PM
I'm a bit confused as to why this was ever a dispute. I am one of those people who has been honked at for not making the left on red. Not being a native Michigander, that whole concept used to be foreign to me, but I get it. When turning from a one way to a one way, you may make a left on red when the traffic is clear in the lane(s) onto which you are trying to turn. The thing that makes this very different is that Coolidge is NOT a one way, it's two way traffic, and if there is a SOLID RED, a left turn is never allowed. That is not a blinking light, it is a solid red. Why is this confusing?
The Duke of Royal Oak July 11, 2012 at 05:36 PM
I never turned left on the red, never thought it was allowed. Too much going on at that intersection anyway. There is foot traffic, east bound Coolidge traffic, south bound Woodward traffic, ambulance traffic. Then add in drivers using mobile phones, YIKES!
C July 15, 2012 at 06:58 AM
Kind of late to chime in, but I was out of town. I am one of the people that phoned the police department, a long time ago. I saw many people turn left, and also heard a lot of honking, so I checked it out. And yes, at that time, I was told it was okay to turn left there, on the red, so I did. Never honked at anyone that didn't, though. Rude & dangerous.
nofuture July 16, 2012 at 08:03 PM
That whole area is a mess. I have to cross it on my commute of only a few miles and spend more than half of my commute time sitting there. Seems like a great place for a traffic circle, and maybe a train station in the middle!


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