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New Traffic Signal Puts Brakes on Left Turn Trap

The city of Santa Barbara has installed a new type of traffic signal at the intersection of State and Yanonali streets, immediately adjacent to the State Street railroad crossing.

The signal is a flashing yellow left turn arrow for southbound State Street traffic turning left onto Yanonali Street. A flashing yellow left turn arrow means left turns yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians.

These arrows are widely used in other areas of the country, but this is the first of its kind in Santa Barbara.

The traffic signal change is part of a larger effort being made in cooperation with Union Pacific Railroad and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to improve safety at the State Street railroad crossing.

Traffic sensors will be installed downstream of the railroad crossing that will sense if the traffic queue will reach the railroad crossing. When that happens, the southbound traffic signal will turn red so no additional traffic is added to the queue.

Southbound left turn traffic will continue to flow because of the flashing yellow left turn arrow. This eliminates a safety condition known as the left turn trap. No other flashing yellow left turn arrows are currently planned for Santa Barbara.

Other safety features have been added to the railroad crossing include a new traffic signal for northbound traffic that prevents traffic from stopping on the tracks, and median islands that prevent traffic from going around closed railroad crossing gates.

This fall, new pedestrian gates will be installed across the sidewalks, and the far end of the Amtrak platform will be removed to eliminate direct access onto State Street.

These changes are required by and funded through the CPUC, which has jurisdiction over railroad crossings in California. The State Street crossing was identified by the CPUC due to the amount of pedestrian activity and past train involved collisions.

— Rachelle Pegg for the city of Santa Barbara.

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