New Jersey jug handles

I lived in New Jersey for about 20 years. I now live in Maryland, and when I occasionally go back to New Jersey I can’t help but wonder- what’s with all the Jug Handles? Why is it that here in Maryland (and most other states as I understand it) one is free to actually make left turns, where in New Jersey, one must make three rights to make a left? Is there some kind of bizarre traffic law that mandates this annoyance?

Ken Kammerer

Wow, talk about yer coinkydinkys. I too live in Maryland after having lived in NJ for over 20 years.

Jughandles are a neat little concoction, aren’t they? In some places they’re called cloverleafs, but the concept’s the same.

I think that the idea is that there is such a high volume of traffic throughout much of NJ that rather than have one lane just for turning left it’s more expeditious to simply have the cars move into the right lane and exit via the jughandle rather than having everyone backing up the left-turn lane.

Yes, that was my first thought- that it was a way of handling higher traffic volumes… but then I realized that here in the Baltimore area, I have seen more traffic that I ever saw in NJ (lived in Manasquan) and although the traffic here is horrible in places, it’s no worse than jug-handle equipped NJ as far as I can tell. So I want to know who’s bright idea it was to splatter jug handles all over NJ. Seems to me the left turn lane (or two if need be) idea works fine. :slight_smile:


Jughandles aren’t the same as cloverleafs! A jughandle is usually free-standing, or at most there are two of them. A cloverfleaf is a four-way interchange with provisions for going to lanes going in each direction. A jughandle provides only a way to make a left turn across the line of traffic and, unlike cloverleafs, it goes through a traffic light.

The same purpose can be served (and usually IS served in other states) by an extra lane to the left and a “left turn” arrow that goes on in advance of the “straight ahead” green light coming the other way. Jughandles take up a LOT more space.

On the other hand, I suspect there are a lot fewer accidents with “jughandles”, since they don’t rely on that “advance green”, so fewer drivers coming the other way will “jump the gun” and plow into the guy turning left.

Having spent almost 90% of my years in North Jersey, here’s my WAG: They do whatever will work for a given intersection. The left-turn lane is a nice idea, IF you have room for it. Putting a whole new lane into a street is not always an easy idea. But if there is an empty lot at the far-right corner, then you can make one of those kind of jughandles there.

Another kind of jughandle is used if you are on a main road, wanting to turn left onto a relatively minor road. In this case, you get into the right lane BEFORE the intersection, and the lane forks off to the right, and then you make a left turn onto the side road several carlengths before the intersection.

Lots of different solutions, each one tailored to the needs of the situation.

Cal, jughandles do not always go through traffic lights. In fact, most of the time they simply lead to an overpass. While they may not be exactly the same as cloverleafs, the concept is similar.

Other states may have the room do add that extra lane - NJ does not. The most densely populated state in the country is already littered with construction intended to widen roads, and whenever possible, the contracts add that extra lane. However, this is usually an impossibility. Take southern New Jersey. I’m not sure how familiar you are with that area, but from Philadelphia across to Atlantic City there are zillions of roads. State Rte. 70 is among the worst of the non-parkway roads in terms of traffic volume. There is simply no room to add another lane, in most cases.

There are fewer accidents with jughandles for the reason you noted, and also because the driver doesn’t even need to stop to use one - the traffic flow isn’t altered, and of course, there is no oncoming traffic.
kenman, in which county is Manasquan? Is it in northern NJ or southern? Northern, of course, is pretty much a long parking lot from Trenton on up, and there’s even less room for expansion there. My guess is that when these roads were built, the designers simply didn’t think to have all multi-lane highways. I’ll bet designers in, say, 1960 had no idea NJ would be as populous as it is today. In any event, you had a lot of roads with one or two lanes in one direction, and it was easier to add a lane to the right that would simply peel off and join another road than to add a left-turn lane. You’d have to eat into the median to do that. If there’s no median, then you’d have to widen the entire road, which could prove to be a lot costlier than adding a jughandle exit.

Or I could be wrong. :slight_smile:


I’ve from Jersey, and still have faily there. I’ve never heard them referred to as :“jughandles” unless they DID go through a traffic light. People giving directions will call it a “jughandle” if it goes through a light and an “overpass” if it doesn’t. (I was very surprised when I moved out of state and found that people had no idea what I meant when I said “jughandle”. And they do have them elsewhere.)

New Jersey may be starved for space, but they keep building them. It’s been less than 10 years since they put in an ENORMOUS one on Route 18 in East Brunswick, which would otherwise have gone into another strip mall or housing development.

Well, I’m from there as well, and that’s ALL we called them! So it might be just a matter of regional preferences. :slight_smile:

How can it be an overpass and a jughandle, though? The jughandle leads to the overpass. The overpass is actually part of a road, while the jughandle is really just a glorified exit ramp.

I think one advantage of the jughandle approach is that you don’t need the left turn lights in each direction. Without a jughandle, the light cycle at a major road (east-west) intersected by a smaller road (north-south) will go:

  1. Eastbound lane left turn and straight, Westbound lane stopped
  2. East - West both straight through
  3. Westbound lane left turn and straight, Eastbound lane stopped
  4. North - South straight through

So, through traffic on the busy street will have to sit through longer light cycles. This is significant if the roads are layed out so that the major road has several intersections along it. If there is less waiting at each one, the overall traffic flow is less disrupted.

New Jersey has a lot more roads that have traffic patterns that would benefit from jughandles than other areas. Here in Massachusetts, Rt. 1 in Dedham, Westwood, and Norwood would benefit from several more jughandles. There are a few, but traffic is always stuck waiting for some damn left turn light from the other direction. The basic features of that area (major road with stores, malls, car dealerships, etc. along both sides) seem to be similar to where you find the most jughandles in New Jersey.

If it goes over an overpass it is not a jughandle.

The only places I can think of (off the top of my head - I’m not claiming these are the only places) like that are on Rt. 46, 17 and 22. When you get off a road like that it is called an exit ramp.

Personally, I like jughandles. You don’t have to worry about cutting through traffic, and more importantly, you don’t have to worry about the old person in front of you not being able to make a tough left at a busy intersection.


My fiance is from Queens, and she hates them. Her biggest complaint is not the mechanics of it, but rather that it is random whether or not you will be exiting on the left or right.

She always misses them and then is nervous the next one will be the opposite and so on and so on…

I guess she imagines herself driving until the next state until she can find a place to trun around:)

I agree with “freedom”.

I’m from Warren county and commute to Bergen County daily.I would MUCH rather turn onto a jug handle than try and fight my way across traffic doing by making a left.You then don’t have to deal with the Yuppie in the BMW on his cell phone honking at you.It seems most Jerseyites (especially in and around the urban areas) have a cell phone implanted on their right ear and hand transplanted to the horn button.
Making a left at a traffic light is als inherantly dangerous.Above said Yuppie in the fast lane too busy on his cell phone has been know to plow into your car as you wait to make that left. How DARE you get in his way!

You think New Jersey has crazy roads? Try Conneticut!
What Genius designed the Fastlane (left side) exit!!??

Have you ever had to go past 153b on the GSP?
Man, those slow exiters start moving over before the SP barracks. I hate that stretch of road. Bad planning like that forces fast drivers like me to weave.
It’s not MY fault you know…:slight_smile:

Out here in the sparsely-populated southwest, you can just about make a left turn from any lane you choose, depending on the time of day (not necessarily legal, but if a tree makes an illegal turn in the forest, and there’s no-one to see it… ;)). I’ve never seen a “jughandle”. If I have, I didn’t know that’s what it is. Can anyone provide a link to an aerial photograph of a jughandle? That would help a lot.



I’m from Montreal and I’ve experienced “Jug Handles” in Jersey firsthand on a number of occasions.

The first time I drove on a road with this feature, I was impressed as hell.

In my opinion, they may not be attractive, and they most certainly use up more real estate and tax dollars to construct. But without a doubt, they actually do reduce the number and severity of traffic jams.

Can anyone imagine my disappointment to click on this thread to see what “jug handles” were, only to discover it’s about cloverleafs and left turns?

LOL! Had I not seen the “New Jersey” in the title, I would most definitely have thought the same thing… :slight_smile:

Jug handles serve to prevent left cross-traffic turns and gridlock. They work.

Baloo, take a look at two jughandles here:

They serve both the North and Southbound lanes of Rt. 31 just North of Flemington, NJ.