Reverse traffic lanes add capacity to a road and decrease congestion by borrowing capacity from the other (off-peak) direction. Reversing traffic lanes reduces congestion during morning and evening commutes.
Reverse Traffic Lanes Study:
Read the Reverse Traffic Lanes Study (PDF)
In December 2021, a planning and traffic operations study of the reverse traffic lanes on 7th Street and 7th Avenue was finalized. The study was conducted to examine the reversible lanes, the existing traffic operations, safety, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS) infrastructure along the 7th Street and 7th Avenue corridors. Currently, the reversible lanes are operational during the morning and afternoon peak travel hours. The study also identified strategies and associated costs to improve the operations and safety on both corridors. The study's boundary limits were 7th Avenue on the west, 7th Street on the east, McDowell Road on the south and Dunlap Avenue on the north.
The study concluded that eliminating the reversible lanes, partially or completely, will create operational delays, increase travel times by more than 40 percent in some segments, and worsen levels of service at signalized intersections that can increase the potential for crashes associated with traffic congestion. The study recommends retaining the reversible lanes and to consider improvement strategies such as removal and replacement of static signs, intersection improvements, dynamic lane control, fiber trunk installation, corridor restriping and installing bus bays.
City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department staff has reviewed the results of the study and is considering how the recommendations can be integrated into the city's ongoing capital improvement plan. A project timeline has not been determined and specific funding has not been identified.
How the reverse traffic lane works on 7th Street and 7th Avenue:
During morning and afternoon peak traffic hours, the two-way left turn lane on both 7th Street (between approximately McDowell Road and Dunlap Avenue) and 7th Avenue (from approximately McDowell Road to Northern Avenue) operates as a reversible lane.
Monday through Friday during morning peak traffic hours, 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., the reversible lane is used in the southbound direction and in the afternoon peak hours, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., 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.
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.