Meeting gives public chance to weigh in on "suicide lanes"

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PHOENIX -- The public is once again being given the chance to weigh in on reversible lanes, also known as "suicide lanes."

The lanes were introduced in 1979 -- years before State Route 51 was built -- as a way to ease traffic into and out of downtown Phoenix. They have been a source of controversy ever since.

During rush hour, the middle lane, which is usually a two-way left-turn lane, opens to through traffic. Monday-Friday between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., the traffic flows south; between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., it flows north.

The reverse lanes from McDowell Road to Northern Avenue on Seventh Avenue, and McDowell Road to Dunlap Avenue on Seventh Street.

A task force has been set up to review the lanes and their effectiveness. They held their first meeting on Aug. 31. That gathering was mostly informational.

Opponents, mostly residents of surrounding neighborhoods, are concerned that the lanes are confusing to drivers. They also say drivers speed through residential streets as a shortcut because lefts turns are not allowed from Seventh Street and Seventh Avenue during the morning and evening rush hours.

Those who are in favor of keeping the lanes say they offer an alternative to the freeway for those commuting to downtown Phoenix from the north part of the Valley. They say eliminating the lanes will have a negative impact on rush-hour traffic.

This is not the first time the city of Phoenix has looked at doing away with the reverse lanes. The most recent was two years ago. One of the biggest issues addressed then was the sheer cost associated with such a project. Not only would it cost quite a bit to change the signage on Seventh Avenue and Seventh Street, but there is also a considerable cost associated with educating the public about any change.

The task force is meeting at 6:00 this evening at Memorial Hall at Steele Indian School Park.The public is welcome. Two more meeting will be held in October.