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Tip List: Merced drivers get two lanes for the price of one

A lack of signage on Sante Fe Drive at Highway 59 in Merced has given a Tipster cause for concern. Unlike these motorists turning right Wednesday afternoon, the tipster notes others take the opportunity to drive straight ahead from the turn lane, creating confusion and a possible traffic hazzard.
A lack of signage on Sante Fe Drive at Highway 59 in Merced has given a Tipster cause for concern. Unlike these motorists turning right Wednesday afternoon, the tipster notes others take the opportunity to drive straight ahead from the turn lane, creating confusion and a possible traffic hazzard. SUN-STAR PHOTO BY GEORGE MACDONALD

Wal-Mart may be at the center of one of Merced's most divisive economic issues, but no matter where you stand on the matter, there's no avoiding the occasional trip to the discount supercenter.

Tipster Bill Day, who often heads east on Santa Fe to make stops at Save Mart and Wal-Mart for his day-to-day staples, says he's noticed some drivers are a little too eager to get to the blue monster.

"Everybody goes to Wal-Mart," Day says. "When it's busy, you see cars going straight from the right-hand turn lane."

He says drivers traveling east on Santa Fe often use the right-turn lane at the Highway 59 intersection to drive straight into the third lane when Santa Fe becomes Olive Avenue. Day says there are no markings to indicate a right-turn only where the right lane widens on Santa Fe to allow drivers to turn onto the highway.

Since I had yet to check off four items from my shopping list this week (electric tape, detergent, animal crackers and socks) I decided to kill two birds (or a lion and bear in cracker form) with one stone. As I approached the intersection, I pulled into the right-turn lane (noting the lack of signs or markings). Looking ahead where the road expands to three lanes, I could see how somebody might think it's safe to travel ahead.

Day says a friend of his was pulled over for using that lane to negotiate his way across the intersection. He says his friend wasn't ticketed because he pointed out that there was no sign or markings.

So can these road hogs get in trouble? Sgt. Jay Struble from the Merced Police Department says yes.

"If you are going to make a right-hand turn, you have to position your vehicle as close as possible to the shoulder or curb," Struble says, even if the lane isn't marked. "It's an unsafe pass on the right. It's not legal to go around people on right-hand side and continue straight."

Our tipster says it would be an easy fix -- a little paint and a sign and suddenly the confusion is gone.

Merced County spokeswoman Katie Albertson says the solution isn't so simple.

"It's not necessarily that cut and dry," Albertson says. "We have engineers that will be investigating."

She says they'll be looking at such issues as traffic studies and road right-of-way; if it's feasible, they will take action.

WHAT'S WRONG: Drivers heading east on Santa Fe Avenue at the Highway 59 intersection are using the right-hand turn lane to drive straight onto Olive Avenue.

WHAT'S BEING DONE: Merced Police Department says it's an unsafe pass on the right, and the Merced County Public Works Department says it will investigate the situation at the intersection..

WHO'S INVOLVED: Curt Royer, Merced County Roads Division, (209) 385-7601.

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