Patty Sherman had always figured it was OK to make a "free right" on red, even if it was a red arrow. Unless, of course, there's a sign posted that says no right turn. Now, she's not so sure.

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Q: Patty Sherman had always figured it was OK to make a “free right” on red, even if it was a red arrow. Unless, of course, there’s a sign posted that says no right turn.

Now, she’s not so sure.

“We always get a free right turn after stopping at the light, if the road is clear for us to make a safe right turn,” she said. “So what is the use of the red arrow? I don’t know if it means stop and not turn, or stop and turn.

“I would like to know what the lit-up red arrow really means.”

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A: According to the Washington Driver Guide, the manual most people turn to when preparing for their driver’s test, a red arrow means you must stop, then you can proceed when the red arrow goes out and a signal or arrow turns green. If you’re turning right, you may turn after coming to a full stop, if it is safe, and if there is no sign prohibiting the turn on a red arrow.

That’s state law, says state Department of Licensing spokesman Brad Benfield.

“The red-arrow traffic signal requires the same fundamental action as a regular circular red stop light, but also can reflect direction of travel restrictions for the traffic lane the driver is in,” he said. “They are most common on multilane roads and highways or used in left-hand turn lanes.”

Left-turners can get in on the act, too. Benfield says you can turn left onto a one-way street carrying traffic in the direction of the left turn, after coming to a full stop, as long as there is no sign prohibiting turns on a red arrow, and when it is safe to do so.

Q: A while back, the westbound lane of Southwest Genesee Street between 46th Avenue Southwest and 47th Avenue Southwest in West Seattle was torn up and replaced. Neighborhood resident Dave Gardner says it was a lousy patch job, leaving an extremely rough stretch of roadway that has continued to deteriorate.

“It’s gotten so bad that westbound drivers are moving into the eastbound lane to avoid that stretch,” he said. Can anything be done?

A: To keep the street open, the Seattle transportation department’s “pothole ranger” crew has made temporary asphalt spot repairs along Genesee, and Charles Bookman, SDOT’s street-maintenance interim manager says concrete crews will, within the next few months, replace some of the broken concrete panels.

On the north side of the street, there is an old asphalt utility trench patch that has deteriorated. That section was to be repaved this summer, Bookman said, but the impact of the economic downturn on SDOT’s budget delayed that work.

“The asphalt repair remains a priority, and we hope to move forward with it when funds are restored,” he said. Meanwhile, SDOT plans to continue to patch potholes. But patch jobs should be better. Bookman says SDOT has a better way of making pavement repairs than what was used just a few years ago.

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