Many roads are striped for multiple lanes in each direction, but not all of them require the extra lanes from a traffic volume standpoint. Sometimes the volumes on the road have decreased; in other cases, spare capacity was built in for anticipated conditions that never materialized. Reducing the number of lanes, or putting the road on a “diet” to better size it for its needs, can then be considered as a traffic calming measure. In many cases, the excess pavement can then be converted to more useful amenities such as shoulder areas, bicycle lanes, and dedicated left or right turn lanes.
Whenever City or County multilane roadways are scheduled for maintenance or reconstruction, Monroe County DOT reviews the number of vehicular traffic lanes needed in each direction. In some cases, needed capacity improvements are identified which require widening the pavement to avoid congestion. However, on many roads, there is an opportunity to shift the use of available pavement width from vehicular travel lanes to auxiliary features such as turning lanes, bicycle lanes, or shoulders that increase the range of potential road uses. In the more developed areas where pedestrians would be regularly expected, we also search for opportunities to make the roadway more pedestrian friendly, such as the installation of curb extensions (or “bump-outs”) and/or pedestrian shelter medians.
Multilane conversions can offer the following benefits:
- Provides traffic calming by reducing prevailing speeds of through traffic
- Creates vehicular safety features such as dedicated left and right turn lanes, shoulders, and medians
- Creates safety features for non-vehicular traffic such as bicycle lanes, "bump-outs", narrower pedestrian crossings, and pedestrian medians
- May create on-street parking opportunities where needed to benefit residential and commercial development
- Increases the separation between parked vehicles and through traffic by recessing parking and/or adding edge lines
- Provides opportunities for community gateway beautification through landscaping
All of the following characteristics should be met for the location to be a candidate for multilane conversion:
- Having more than one travel lane in one or both directions
- Peak traffic volume for the multilane section can be accommodated by one travel lane
- The capacity of intersections are not compromised by the reduction in travel lanes
- Minimal impacts to existing parking where it is needed (some designs require eliminating parking near intersections)
- Provide proper lane continuity and adequate transition areas (or “lane drops”)
In addition, potential safety benefits are considered. However, since the benefits extend beyond safety, a conversion can be done even if accident occurrence is already low.
Maps of multilane conversions or “road diets”
The maps below (one for the City and the other for areas outside the City) identify locations on City streets and County roads that have been converted, as well as those that have been identified as future conversion candidates. Conversions are usually done when the road is next repaved due to the amount of striping changes that are involved.