Motorists traveling south on Brigantine Boulevard just past Huron Avenue might find themselves shaking their head. A few feet from the intersection, the boulevard mysteriously widens into a third lane that is striped left-turn only.
The problem is, there is no road on which to turn and no intersection — only a sidewalk and fenced-in ballfield and playground.
But while the turn is nonsensical to the uninitiated, locals know exactly what that left lane is for — although even they admit it feels odd.
“That’s the most weirdest turn in Atlantic City, but I get home faster,” said Ashley Viera, 21, of Maryland Avenue.
Viera and other locals use the lane to make a U-turn and then a right onto Maryland Avenue. It’s a cut-through that saves motorists from traveling the entire length of Brigantine Boulevard in order to access the Back Maryland section of the city.
It’s one of those shortcuts that most don’t learn by reading the signs and road markings because they don’t make sense. These motorists learn by watching others.
“I thought it was an illegal turn, but I’ve seen my mother use it,” said Imani Dillihay, a 17-year-old driver who used the cut-through last week on her way to Adriatic Avenue.
She and fellow Charter Tech High School senior Kelsey Wade drove in one car while their friend and classmate, Jessica Dallas, 18, of Somers Point, followed behind in a second car. Dallas was among the uninitiated.
“I wouldn’t have made that turn without following,” she said.
The South Jersey Transportation Authority, which has oversight of that section of Brigantine Boulevard, said the turn lane is in fact for making U-turns even though the road is not striped for that and the only hint that a U-turn is permissible is a sign that says in small letters, “Vehicles Over 4 Tons No U-turns.”
Kevin Rehmann, the spokesman for the SJTA, said he had submitted a note requesting workers to recheck the signs.
“It may have been knocked down,” he said of a U-turn sign.
Rehmann said he did not know whether there ever had been such a sign. It is unclear whether a U-turn sign would be advisable, according to Rehmann, who said the authority adheres to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.
The manual, which sets national standards for traffic signals and signs, has no sections devoted to U-turn lanes where there is no intersection.
The SJTA was forced to add the U-turn, Rehmann said, at the request of the Atlantic City Council, whose members wanted a way for motorists to turn onto Maryland Avenue from the southbound lanes of Brigantine Boulevard. With no other safe way for such a turn, the U-turn became the only option, Rehmann said.
U-turn lanes are generally discouraged, a remnant of a bygone era in which roadways carried less traffic and slower speeds, according to state Department of Transportation spokesman Joe Dee.
“We don’t look on them as an ideal design element today,” he said. “We do look to eliminate them when we can.”
In case readers were wondering, the Brigantine Boulevard and Maryland Avenue U-turn is not the only one in the region.
In Egg Harbor Township, a similar setup exists on the Black Horse Pike by Uibel Avenue. However, the difference is the left lane is clearly marked for U-turns only.
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