Reverse lanes have been in place on 7th Avenue and 7th Street since 1979 and 1982, respectively. They were created to address traffic concerns as Phoenix was growing its downtown core. In 1979, the Mayor and Council challenged staff to come up with transportation system management solutions to the growing traffic congestion problems caused largely by the lack of a regional freeway system. Reverse lanes were proposed as a cost effective solution to address the traffic issues, especially since widening 7th Street and 7th Avenue was not practical.
In 1979, the two-way left turn lane on 7th Avenue was converted into a reverse lane from approximately McDowell Road to Northern Avenue and 7th Street was converted to reverse lanes in 1982 between approximately McDowell Road and Dunlap Avenue. In both cases, the reverse lanes added significant capacity while reducing cut through traffic in the neighborhood resulting from the congestion.
During morning and afternoon peak traffic hours, the two-way left turn lane on both 7th Street and 7th Avenue operates as a reversible lane. In the morning peak traffic hours, 6 am to 9 am, the reversible lane is used in the southbound direction and in the in the afternoon peak hours, 4 pm to 6 pm, it is used in the northbound direction. Left turns are prohibited at all arterial and most collector street intersections, but left-turns are allowed at other non-signalized streets and at driveways for access. Overhead and roadside signs are used to indicate the reverse lane hours of operation, direction of operation, and the prohibition of left-turns are posted frequently throughout the corridors.
In 2007, City Council directed staff to evaluate the reverse lanes for safety, capacity, other operational characteristics, and impacts to businesses and neighborhoods. The study evaluated alternatives associated with keeping, removing, or upgrading the reverse lanes.
Currently, staff is implementing changes approved by Council. Left turn arrows were added to Camelback and 7th Avenue on August 15, 2011, and the overhead and side mount signage was replaced with updated graphics.
Below are links to all of the updates on the implementation of the changes approved so far. The next update will be provided after the City Council decision concerning the procurement method for the design and installation of the flashing lights/beacons and new sign structures. That discussion is expected to take place in early October 2011.