#76) Can U-Turns help the economy?

There’s a certain thing that, if legalized, likely may have an impact on the local economy in the form of increased tax revenue from consumer spending and more money funneled to area businesses rather than payment of fines.   I speak, of course, of legalizing a “U” turn in the southeast bound direction on Collier Avenue at the intersection of Central Avenue in Lake Elsinore, CA.

Of course, not being able to make a U-turn is a first world problem to end all first world problems.  But bear with me for just a few minutes.

Collier Avenue heads northwest/southeast, roughly paralleling the shore of Lake Elsinore and Interstate 15.  The section between Riverside Avenue and Central Avenue is also California Highway 74.  When Collier hits Central Avenue, as seen here, drivers can turn left in either of two dedicated lanes to reach the freeway.  However, from neither lane is a driver allowed to make a U-turn.

Why does this matter?

Recently I was driving that stretch of road and saw, in the shopping center on the left, a restaurant where I decided I wanted to have lunch.  Having worked up an appetite hiking the El Cariso Truck Trail nearby, I was hungry and was eagerly anticipating a burger, only to be disappointed that I was not allowed to make a U-turn that would have allowed me to enter the shopping center.

By this point, I have made my first world problem even more of a first world problem, if possible.  But this isn’t about me; it’s about Lake Elsinore and its economy.  I acknowledge that I could have driven farther on Central Avenue to a point where I could have made a U-turn but I decided, like Rosa Parks, to make a stand and instead to have lunch in the neighboring city of Murrieta, thus pulling dollars from the Lake Elsinore economy because I was not allowed to make a U-turn.

Let’s extrapolate.  Lake Elsinore’s population is about 50,000; with attractions such as outlet malls, the minor league baseball team Lake Elsinore Storm, a casino and the lake itself–a popular recreational spot–quite a few people outside of the city spend time there either for work, play or both.  Collier Avenue has a large volume of traffic and I can’t help but imagine that I’m not the only one who has had to pass by the shopping center due to being unable to legally make a U-turn.  It doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that the illegal U-turn might cost the shopping center on average one customer per hour.  If each would-be customer represents $10 in spending, that’s $240 per day (OK, so we know that no one’s entering the shopping center at 2am, but there’s probably more than one person during peak hours.  It’s an estimate, not meant to be scientifically air-tight or legally binding.)  If these numbers are right, or at least ballpark, the illegal U-turn costs the businesses in that shopping center about $87,000 per year.  That’s just one U-turn on one street in one city.

Of course, Lake Elsinore probably gleans some revenue from tickets.  However, according to traffic attorney Scott Desind, only about 25% of ticket revenue stays with the local enforcement agency.

Maybe I’m wrong and the legalization of U-turns such as the one at the intersection of Collier and Central would result in an Armageddon of death and destruction caused by reckless drivers.  Perhaps if I was more informed about law enforcement’s side of the argument I wouldn’t be so eager to cry “policing for revenue.”  All I’m asking is that local governments such as Lake Elsinore consider the economic implications of laws and regulations that are allowed to exist under the mantle of public safety.

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