Holzapfel: Put end to traffic jughandles

TRENTON – They are about as ubiquitous as diners in New Jersey: traffic jughandles.

But one lawmaker, Sen. James Holzapfel, R-10, Brick, would like to see no new ones built, and he has sponsored a bill toward that end that will be heard next week.

Bill S207 would “prohibit the planning, designing or construction of any additional jughandles on the public roads or highways” in New Jersey.

In a telephone interview, Holzapfel, who first proposed such legislation in 2003 as an assemblyman, said jughandles take up lots of land, sometimes requiring the condemnation of businesses.

Moreover, he believes they’re just not all that effective, adding they can often result in traffic backups.

“In my humble opinion, they do not work,” he said. “They’re really out of the dark ages. They stack up the cars, people block the intersections.”

But at least two transportation experts would disagree with Holzapfel.

Pam Fischer, a transportation consultant, said jughandles are effective, adding they help cut down on accidents against opposing traffic.

“From a safety perspective, they make sense,” she said in a phone interview. “One of the most dangerous maneuvers is left-hand turns. They have a real purpose.”

Pat Ott, who worked at the state Transportation Department for some 27 years, echoed her sentiments.

“They are a safer alternative to making a left-hand turn,” Ott said.

Fischer added that two of the state’s most vulnerable groups – teens and senior citizens – are particularly prone to accidents at intersections.

Jughandles started becoming popular as traffic circles were beginning to get phased out.

It’s not clear if they are more effective than simple left-hand turns at intersections, since statistics on such jughandles can be difficult and rare to come by.

But a Federal Highway Administration study said that, on average, jughandles “have lower average intersection delays compared to conventional intersections,” especially when traffic is heavy.

The state Transportation Department did not have a specific opinion on Holzapfel’s bill.

Joe Dee, a DOT spokesperson, said jughandles are “an accepted engineering design” and one of the options officials consider for road projects.

He did say there are some benefits, such as reduced traffic stacking, better flow of traffic and improved traffic safety because there’s one less lane to cross (there’s no left turn lane).

Jughandles are used on highways that have Jersey barriers because they pose less potential line-of-sight problems than a left turn lane because of the barrier’s presence, DOT said.   

S207 will be heard by the Senate Transportation Committee on Monday.

Holzapfel: Put end to traffic jughandles