AUGUSTA — Who yields to who at a heavily-traveled intersection of two off-ramps coming off Interstate 95 will change Tuesday, to the opposite of how it’s been for many years.

Motorists coming off Interstate 95 southbound at Exit 109A onto Western Avenue will, by the end of the day Tuesday, be required to yield to motorists coming off Interstate 95 northbound at Exit 109 where the two off-ramps merge, before heading onto Western Avenue.

That’s exactly the opposite of how it has been for many years, with motorists previously coming off the northbound Exit 109 off-ramp having until now been required to yield to motorists coming off the southbound Exit 109A off-ramp.

One reason for the change: Many motorists coming up the straighter, more heavily-traveled northbound off-ramp haven’t been yielding to motorists coming up the other off-ramp, anyway. That’s despite the two flashing “yield” signs directed at them as they approach the intersection, officials say.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Ted Talbot said the intersection is not a high-accident location, but officials have heard there have been a lot of near misses at the merger and that a number of northbound motorists do not yield properly there.

Officials hope the change will make the yield at the intersection more natural and intuitive.

Steve Hunnewell, assistant state traffic engineer, said the change was made for a number of reasons, including that more than twice as many vehicles use the northbound off-ramp on an average day than use the southbound off-ramp, the northbound ramp is straighter, and motorists on it are generally traveling at higher speeds.

An average of 3,910 vehicles a day travel on the northbound off-ramp, while only 1,740 travel the southbound off-ramp.

“One of the things you look at is the volumes of traffic for each approach, and the northbound ramp has more than twice as much traffic,” Hunnewell said. “In general, you want to inconvenience the fewest number of people as possible. When there is more traffic on one approach, and it’s straight as an arrow and has higher speeds, a lot of drivers intuitively think they should have the right of way.”

Starting by the end of the day Tuesday, they will.

Talbot said the DOT had changing the yield at the intersection “on our radar for some time” and made the change now because a contractor was already going to be doing some repaving at the site anyway. He said the state regularly evaluates the functionality at intersections and, if a change seems warranted, will make the change when a contractor is scheduled to be working there already.

“When we have a contractor working on a project we see what else we can do for possible improvements,” Talbot said. “We do this statewide, we’re constantly evaluating these.”

Officials acknowledge the change could bring some confusion to the intersection.

So they’re taking steps to try to make the change apparent to motorists. Message boards will be set up informing motorists of the change. More specific message boards, text painted in the roadway and signs on the southbound 109A off-ramp before the intersection will advise motorists they have to yield to the traffic on the other off-ramp. The signs will likely remain in place for at least a couple of weeks.

There will also be flashing “yield” signs facing traffic coming to the intersection from the southbound off-ramp.

There will be striping on the ground to mark the change, including a bar which southbound motorists should stop behind if there is traffic they need to yield to coming through the intersection.

“You really can’t miss it,” Hunnewell said. “We’re doing everything we can possibly think of to make sure people yield.”

Changes at the intersection to make it ready for the new traffic pattern include the removal of part of a guardrail, a slight change in the configuration of the southbound travel lane and other alterations to improve sight distances at the intersection.

The change in who yields to who is expected to take place during the day Tuesday, and should be complete before afternoon and evening commuting hours.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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