WKYT Investigates | Dissecting an ‘RCUT’ intersection

State highway engineers are relying on them in more areas to cut down on crashes.
State highway engineers are relying on them in more areas to cut down on crashes.
Updated: Nov. 3, 2022 at 3:00 PM EDT
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GEORGETOWN, Ky. (WKYT) - Folks who live in Georgetown’s Bradford Place neighborhood say they have gotten used to the odd-looking intersection at the entrance. And now, they even like it.

“Honestly, when they first put it in I was a little frustrated because I was like, ‘Ah, I’ve got to turn the wrong way to go the way I need to go,’” said Michelle Muncy, who has lived there for seven years. “But it really has helped.”

Built in the summer of 2020, the restricted crossing U-turn (RCUT) or reduced conflict intersection on U.S. 62 at Hemingway Place gets rid of left turns across traffic.

“Before then it was kind of dangerous, because you were trying to pull out and people were coming in,” said Rob Muncy, describing some close calls he had at the previous intersection. “So you’d almost get hit sometimes and you’d have to wait and look both ways and stuff.”

In an RCUT, everyone pulling out turns right. Then drivers who need to go left or get across the street will get into the far left lane and make a U-turn.

“When you look at the RCUT, there’s an opportunity there to really improve safety without really impacting how long it takes to traverse these in a major way,” Jason Siwula, deputy state highway engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, told WKYT’s Garrett Wymer.

People traveling across state highways in Kentucky may notice more RCUTs. The intersections already seem to be especially popular in areas near Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and far western Kentucky.

But the number all over the state has been growing quickly. Lexington is expected to get at least four in the near future (along the Richmond Road/Athens-Boonesboro corridor.)

A list provided by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet shows that the state has constructed dozens of the intersections in just the past few years.

The state’s first - in Hardin County - was completed in 2017. Since then the state built another one in 2018, two more in 2019, five in 2020, eight in 2021 and seven so far this year.

Work still continues on eight, with design ongoing for seven.

In total, according to the KYTC list, that is 39 RCUTs either completed, under construction or in planning, all in just the last five years.

(In addition to the four RCUTs planned for Lexington that are still in the design phase, several more are included in potential design proposals for the widening of Lexington’s U.S. 60 corridor between Polo Club Boulevard and Haley Road.)

“Where they’ve been implemented, we’ve seen a lot of success, not only from a crash standpoint but people do adjust to them quickly and tend to enjoy having them in the places they’ve been implemented,” Siwula said.

RCUTs can reduce crashes overall by 30-40%, injury crashes by 40-60% and serious injury and fatal crashes combined by 80-100%, Siwula said. The movements involved in navigating through an RCUT result in less-severe crashes when one does occur, he explained.

Engineers say the intersections often work well on four-lane highways (divided or not) in suburban or rural areas.

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Drivers we talked to who live near the RCUT in Georgetown said they like having to look just one way at a time, simplifying the decision-making process.

“It seemed like such a weird thing to do, to block off the intersection like that,” Rob Muncy said. “But after we used it for a while, it was easy enough to get used to.”

Even though the distance drivers must travel to get where they want to go is slightly longer, neighbors say it is actually quicker.

“Because people are all going the same direction,” Michelle Muncy said, “you don’t have someone sitting there trying to turn left across traffic.”

As Georgetown grows up around them and more cars travel these same highways, they say they are glad they will not have to meet them in the middle of the road, but can instead just keep the flow of traffic moving.