Commuters from Dalmeny heading into Saskatoon will now have to initially turn west onto Highway 16 before making a U-turn and then merging into eastbound traffic.

A Reduced Collision U-Turn (RCUT) intersection on Highway 16 at the junction with the Dalmeny Access Road (Grid Road 684) is slated to be fully completed by mid-October.

The first phase of the project, the on and off ramps on the north side of Highway 16, was opened to traffic last week. The second phase, involving the on and off ramps on the south side of Highway 16, is scheduled to open after the Thanksgiving weekend.

New lighting at the intersection is slated to be installed in November.

The $5.8 million intersection is the first of its kind in Saskatchewan, according to the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure (MHI). It replaces a two-way stop-controlled crossing.

Construction work is wrapping up on the RCUT intersection at the junction of Highway 16 and the Dalmeny Access Road

The RCUT intersection marks the second major safety upgrade for the site in the last decade. In 2013, the Dalmeny Access Road was realigned to intersect with Highway 16 at a right angle; previously it intersected at an oblique angle.

The MHI said RCUT intersections have been proven to reduce severe and fatal T-bone collisions.

“These intersections are new to Canada, but they have been extensively built in the United States,” stated the MHI in a background document posted on its website. “RCUT intersections are a cost-effective way to improve safety at busy highway intersections when traffic volumes do not support an overpass.”

The realigned intersection will require motorists to adjust their habits, and could take some getting used to.

The new alignment does not allow left turns onto Highway 16

Under the new alignment, commuters heading south from Dalmeny are now no longer able to turn left (east) onto Highway 16.

Instead, they must turn right (west) onto Highway 16, where they will merge into the flow of westbound traffic for a short distance, during which they must change lanes to the inside lane. The inside lane is a deceleration, dedicated U-turn lane.

Once the driver makes the U-turn, the dedicated lane becomes an acceleration lane that allows the driver to merge into the regular flow of eastbound traffic.

The U-turn lane allows westbound vehicles to safely turn around and head eastbound on Highway 16

According to the MHI, the new alignment reduces the risk of T-bone collisions because left turns are eliminated, and vehicles are not obliged to cross all lanes of traffic. It helps simplify decision-making for drivers because they can focus on one direction of traffic at a time, and they don’t need to wait for a gap in both directions to cross the highway.

The new alignment will also reduce wait times at the busy intersection during peak traffic periods.

The MHI said the U-turn lane is designed to accommodate large trucks and other oversize vehicles.

Construction work on the project began earlier this year following public consultations.