Section 6: Emergency Median Openings on Freeways

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Median crossings between the mainlanes are sometimes necessary for proper law enforcement or for performance of highway maintenance on rural freeways. The construction of such median crossings is not encouraged since the necessary U-turns by such vehicles should be accomplished by using ramps at interchanges to the maximum extent feasible.

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Median crossings, as turnarounds, interfere with through traffic and should be avoided. Normally, the spacing of interchanges and layout of the highway provides for all necessary traffic movements, including those of emergency vehicles.

In unusual situations, where the distance between interchanges is great, emergency crossings may be provided with administrative approval.

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Spacing of Openings

Due to the close spacing of interchanges on urban freeways, emergency median openings are not needed for the operation of official vehicles and, in general, they should not be provided. In rural areas where the spacing of interchanges is greater than approximately 3 miles [4.8 km], a U-turn median opening may be considered at a favorable location about halfway between interchanges. In no case should emergency median openings be spaced at less than 1 mile [1.6 km] intervals. All emergency median openings should be at least 0.5 mile [0.8 km] from any structure that crosses over a freeway and at least 1 mile [1.6 km] from any ramp terminal or other access connection, such as those serving safety rest areas. Openings should be located where adequate stopping sight distance is available and where the median is sufficiently wide to permit an official vehicle to turn between the inner freeway lanes. Emergency median openings should also be as inconspicuous to the traveling public as possible.

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Location and type of emergency median openings should be made a part of the PS&E as a contract item and should be installed as such.

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