Driving would be so much easier if it were nothing but open highways and simple, four-way intersections. It would also be a lot less fun—and a bit less safe, too. Civil engineers have innovated solutions that reduce traffic and crashes, while others have made mistakes that drivers simply have to live with. Here are four types of unusual intersections you may encounter—or rather, three you may encounter and one you hope you never will.
Unusual Intersections: Texas U-Turn
“Everything’s bigger in Texas” extends to highway interchanges, as the car-centric Lone Star State handles heavy levels of traffic. The Texas U-turn effectively widens limited-access highways by linking a highway’s adjacent frontage roads along an overpass or underpass. These allow, for example, eastbound drivers exiting onto a westbound one-way frontage to get back in the right direction as soon as possible. Texas U-turns are plentiful in their namesake state but also exist in other major population centers with similarly heavy traffic.
Unusual Intersections: Michigan Left
More formally known as a median U-turn, this counterintuitive but safer left turn originated in the state of Michigan, where the ever-present significance of Motor City has kept the state’s civil engineers at the forefront of highway design. The Michigan left occurs when you reach a divided highway from a side street. Instead of crossing over into a left turn lane, drivers make an initial right turn, followed by a U-turn across the median of the divided highway, which, in this case, is designed for regular traffic. In avoiding the peril of a traditional left turn, Michigan-left intersections have shown to have markedly fewer accidents than standard four-way intersections. Though these exist primarily in and around Michigan, you may soon see these intersections gain currency across North America.
Unusual Intersections: Roundabout
If you’ve seen National Lampoon’s European Vacation, you know about the confusion Americans often experience when they first encounter a traditional English roundabout. Even if you haven’t, the word on roundabouts is definitely getting out. But like so many British trends and innovations, roundabouts—otherwise known as traffic circles—have made their way stateside as engineers try to reduce car accidents. While roundabouts have been effective in calming roads and cutting down on crashes, these circles do come with a learning curve. But in learning how to navigate the roundabout, you can prepare yourself for increasing instances of this intersection.
While other types of unusual intersections are relatively common, Confusion Corner in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a one-of-a-kind headache, and we should all hope there will not be another. Formally known as Osborne Junction, locals know it better by its truly apt nickname, and its idiosyncratic road sign has become a local landmark. Here, cloverleafs, diagonals, and T intersections overlap in a failure of smart planning that no one has bothered to correct to this day. As Winnipeg is a major crossroads for trans-Canadian traffic and a cultural center for an over-250-mile radius, this pasta bowl of pavement bedevils out-of-towners as well as locals who still haven’t mastered its twists and turns.