For motorists unaccustomed to the ways of New Jersey, the experience can be confounding. Need to make a left turn? Go right.
By diverting left-turning vehicles off travel lanes, the infamous half-loops known as jughandles have been found to help through-traffic move along more quickly on congested roadways.
But a New Jersey state senator is trying to put a halt to any new “Jersey lefts,” arguing that they delay and torment motorists who must regularly use them and confuse those unfamiliar with such traffic configurations.
“If you went to any jughandle, I think, and spoke to anyone that routinely goes through them, they would have to probably agree there's got to be a better way,” said Republican state Sen. James Holzapfel.
His legislation to ban the construction of any new jughandles in New Jersey, where they are commonplace, cleared a Senate committee Monday.
But the committee's chairman said he was not convinced they should be prohibited in all instances and asked the sponsor to discuss possible exemptions with the state Transportation Department before the bill goes to the full Senate.
The Ocean County senator's legislation would have no effect on the hundreds of jughandles that already bedevil New Jersey motorists.
State transportation officials don't know when the first jughandle was constructed in New Jersey or exactly how many there are, but they say their construction began in the 1930s and `40s.
Holzapfel has been trying for a decade to get a ban considered by the Legislature.
He said jughandles can cause rush-hour nightmares, contribute to pollution because of idling cars and take up too much land.
“In all cases, the jughandle loses,” he argued before the committee.
He added his own frustration dealing with jughandles, sitting in traffic watching stoplights change several times before he was able to continue on.
Instead of jughandles, traffic engineers planning any future projects should just add an extra lane that allows for both left turns and U-turns, he said.
The state Department of Transportation says jughandles allow for better traffic flow on busy roadways and are a safer way of getting left-turning vehicles off high-speed roads.
They also keep pedestrians safer because they shorten the amount of ground they must cover at intersections, the department said.
Transportation Department spokesman Tim Greeley said every construction project needs to be reviewed independently to see what design is best.
A study by the Federal Highway Administration found that New Jersey jughandles can reduce delays, travel time and the number of stops for through-traffic in heavy traffic. In lighter traffic it found little difference between jughandles and more conventional intersections.