These left-turn signals send you into someone’s driveway

The ones on southbound 35th Avenue SE in the Silver Lake area aren’t unique, but they’re rare.

Two homes along busy 35th Avenue at 116th Street have a signal to help them get into and out of their driveways. Not all drivers see the small signs, and sometimes that leads to unexpected “visitors” who think they are turning onto a road. (Contributed photo)

Two homes along busy 35th Avenue at 116th Street have a signal to help them get into and out of their driveways. Not all drivers see the small signs, and sometimes that leads to unexpected “visitors” who think they are turning onto a road. (Contributed photo)

Talk about unexpected guests.

Marguerite Witten, of Everett, wrote in about an odd intersection in the Silver Lake area of unincorporated Everett.

The traffic signals on southbound 35th Avenue SE at 110th Street include a dedicated left-turn lane and arrow. But turning left doesn’t lead onto 110th Street — as Witten soon found out. Instead, she found herself turning directly into someone’s driveway.

“While I’m sure those folks are very nice people, they have never invited me to ‘drop in,’ and the only way to correct this misdirection is to back up onto a very busy 35th Avenue and take your chances with traffic,” Witten said. “What’s up with that?”

The signal has been there for about 15 years, according to Snohomish County Public Works. There are actually two driveways served by the signal.

Signals were added to the intersection in general because of increasing traffic. They help kids safely cross the street on their way to nearby James Monroe Elementary School.

Since the driveways to the two homes were within the intersection limits, the decision was made at the time to also signalize the driveways, said Dale Valliant, Snohomish County Traffic Operations supervisor.

Besides the left-turn signal on 35th, there is a dedicated traffic signal at the end of each driveway. These signals operate on a separate phase to allow residents to safely back out of their driveways onto the busy street.

There are other spots scattered across Snohomish County where a traffic signal had to account for a driveway as one leg of an intersection.

One example, in downtown Everett, is at Pacific and Rockefeller avenues, where the entrance and exit for a parking garage at the Snohomish County complex has a signal.

Typically, though, it’s a driveway for a place of business.

“This is a rather unique situation,” Vijay Krishnan said.

Krishnan lives at one of the houses served by the signals.

Signs facing 35th Avenue drivers in each direction note that the “Driveway is Signalized.” But the signs are small, and drivers on 110th Street cannot see them. That can lead to confusion when Krishnan or his neighbor turn left onto northbound 35th Avenue.

“The intention was good but the folks attempting a right turn onto 35th Avenue SE from 110th Street often do not realize both our driveways are signalized and they must yield,” he said. “A few interesting conversations have occurred primarily out of concern for our safety.”

Krishnan has lived at his house for just over a year. He’s only witnessed one person accidentally enter his driveway. It was on a Sunday. The next day, he received my letter about Witten’s experience.

“In any case, neither my neighbor or myself are unfriendly and would be happy to chat with wayward travelers making a left turn into our driveways should the opportunity present itself,” Krishnan said.

Witten said she was happy to hear it. “I should take them some cookies…”

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