City council to again consider ditching 'suicide lanes' in Central Phx.

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PHOENIX -- The Phoenix City Council will meet today to decide what to do with the reverse lanes that are part of Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street in the central part of the city.

Suicide lanes

City council to again consider ditching 'suicide lanes' in Central Phx. - The Phoenix City Council will meet today to decide what to do with the reverse lanes that are part of Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street in the central part of the city.

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A Phoenix transportation official says in the past four years, traffic congestion has dropped almost 30 percent along Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street. Part of that decrease could be due to the Light Rail.

A reverse lane, also known as a "suicide lane," was put in place on Seventh Avenue between McDowell Road and Northern Avenue in 1979. A similar lane was added on Seventh Street between McDowell Road and Dunlap Road in 1982. The idea was to ease traffic congestion, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. From 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. on weekdays, the left-hand turning lanes are for through traffic heading south into down Phoenix. In the afternoon, from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m., the same lanes are for through traffic heading north. During both of those times, left turns at signals are not allowed. Left turns into driveways and on to most residential streets are generally permitted.

While most commuters seem to like the reverse lanes, other drivers find them confusing. As well, some business owners and residents who work and live off Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street are not fans. Business owners say the lanes have a negative impact on their businesses. Residents are concerned about traffic cutting through their neighborhoods.

The city council took a look at removing the reverse lanes last October, but was unable to make a decision. Council members opted to wait and see what impact the Light Rail had on traffic patterns. Since the Light Rail went into service, there has been a decrease in traffic of about 9 percent, but the city has seen an overall decline in traffic due to the weakened economy.

If the council votes to do anything other than to keep the lanes, they'll have to come up with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Eliminating the reverse lanes will run close to $1 million to change the signs along Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue. A study to determine if the lanes do indeed ease traffic will run in the range of $250,000. Adding signs or beacons along the streets could cost tens of millions.

The city council is slated to take up the issue at 2 p.m.