By CASSIE MCKEE, Four Points News
Since being installed by the Texas Department of Transportation several months ago, the red right-turn arrows at the intersection of RM 620 and RM 2222 have created confusion for drivers, who were first told it was illegal to turn right when the arrows were red. A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety has now confirmed that initial understanding was incorrect, since there is not a posted sign specifically stating that a right turn on red is prohibited.
“It is not illegal to turn right on a red arrow unless there is a posted sign,” said Lisa Cortinas, public information officer for Austin Police Department.
Because the traffic signal is now under the city of Austin’s jurisdiction, it is the city’s decision whether to put up a “no turn on red sign” at the light; however, Cheyenne Krause, a spokesperson for the City of Austin’s Transportation Department said the city does not have any plans to do so.
“Usually, you restrict right on red movement when there are high pedestrian volumes or limited line of sight; this area doesn’t have either of these two conditions,” Krause said. “Currently, the city has no plans to put in a ‘no right turn on red’ sign at that intersection.”
She said the city has not received any complaints about the red arrows at that intersection and its engineers have visited the area and reviewed traffic data including incident reports.
Residents were confused about the rules of the intersection once the dual right-turn lane was finished. In February, Long Canyon resident Michelle Michel emailed TxDOT regarding the rules, asking if making a right turn when the signal is a red, right arrow is legal.
TxDOT spokesperson Christopher Bishop responded to Michel, and in a statement published in the Four Points News, Bishop said that it was illegal to make a right turn on the red arrow at the intersection.
“Both the southbound RM 620 lefts and eastbound Bullick Hollow use the same lanes that you would enter to make a right on red at that intersection,” Bishop wrote in response to Michel’s question. “If a right on red were acceptable, then a red ball would be used. The use of the protected right-turn arrow prevents any confusion as to what movements occur in these lanes.”
However, Krause with the city of Austin said that the Texas Transportation Code makes no differentiation between a red arrow and a red ball signal and, unless a sign is posted otherwise, it is legal to turn right on a red arrow after coming to a complete stop
“After coming to a complete stop and yielding to things like pedestrians in the crosswalks and oncoming vehicles, cars may turn right on red at a red signal unless otherwise posted,” Krause said.
Krause said this rule is outlined in the Texas Transportation Code, section 544.007 that states in part: “After stopping, standing until the intersection may be entered safely, and yielding right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully in an adjacent crosswalk and other traffic lawfully using the intersection, the operator mayturn right.”
TxDOT’s Bishop said the city is now in charge of the signal and intersection and they have clarified how state law is being applied in this instance. A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety said while state agencies may have their own interpretations of state law, the ultimate authority is up to the local law enforcement agency.
“In my (earlier email response to Michel), I was under the impression that a ‘no right turn on red’ sign was to be placed, but additional clarification indicates that is not the case; therefore, my (previous) message is no longer relevant,” Bishop said.
Drivers will not receive a traffic citation for turning right at the red arrow, providing the intersection is clear.
Both TxDOT and the City of Austin are keeping an eye on the intersection and its safety, which is a top priority for both.
“Safety is our top priority at TxDOT and we take this very seriously. I have to defer to Cheyenne and the city as to conditions there, but I know they echo our sentiments about safety and can assure this roadway and intersection are safe,” Bishop said.