Driving the new Washington Ave/Fuller Road florcle

washington_fuller_flyover_circle_0787.jpg

The new flyover/circle.

The new flyover/circle at Washington Ave and Fuller Road in Albany opened Monday morning. The final section -- the re-routed eastbound side of Washington Ave Extension north of the new nanotech buidling -- was connected over the weekend. It's an important intersection -- about 30,000 vehicles pass through it each day, according to NYSDOT.

We happened to be out that way yesterday so we gave the florcle a few spins.

A few initial impressions...

+ Washington Ave is now a straight shot through the intersection. It "flies over" Fuller. And if you're headed that way, that's an upgrade.

+ Bonus points for the curve on the new section of the Washington Ave Ext that passes along the nanofab building.

washington fuller flyover circle 0786

+ The Fuller Road situation is more complicated. Roundabouts seem to give a fair number of people stress. That's understandable -- during high traffic they're like trying to jump into the middle of one of those dances from a Jane Austen film. But transportation planners maintain that roundabouts are safer than other types of intersections. They just don't always feel like that -- and this one probably won't be any different for some people.

washington_fuller_flyover_circle_0788.jpg

+ Part of the weird feeling comes from the huge pillar holding up the Washington Ave flyover -- it's right in the middle of the circle and blocks the other side of the circle.

washington_fuller_flyover_circle_0798.jpg

washington_fuller_flyover_circle_0795.jpg

+ That pillar combines with the flyover overpass and the I-90 overpass to the north to create what feels like a cramped intersection.

washington_fuller_flyover_circle_0783.jpg

+ Another part of the situation that feels odd: "exiting" from Washington Ave to take Fuller. (Before the florcle was completed and all the signage was in place we totally missed the off-ramp.)

+ All that said, traffic was flowing smoothly on Monday.

+ As intersections go, we'd probably rank the Latham SPUI ahead of the new florcle.

washington_fuller_flyover_circle_0781.jpg
The old path of Washington Ave Extention.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Reconfiguration of Washington and Fuller starts
+ The Latham SPUI is now open

Comments

I'm usually in favor of these improvements, but man does this one feel overbuilt. I just came over Washington heading east, and the "exit" just says "Exit," without much warning of what you're exiting to. I think it's mis-signed for I-90, at least for the east. Hoping they'll put up signs that say if you want to stay on Washington, keep going. Coming south on Fuller, it really is daunting to approach a big pile of concrete that looks narrow and requires some bending to get around.

heading east ... the new traffic light allowing traffic from fuller road access comes up rather quickly ... it dosen't come into sight till you pass the new fab building. this is my only concern

So you're saying, tonite, in the dark, the eastbound traffic should be very interesting - I wonder if they have re-calibrated the light at suny/90E to account for no light at fuller - should be 'fun'

The SPEW makes me nauseous (I'll continue to call it a SPEW, 'cause it's more appropriate) -- it's disconcerting enough that I now avoid that bridge entirely unless I'm going straight over it. I can't imagine how much this new monstrosity sucks if it's worse than that.

As someone who approaches the Nanotech building every day, either from the Fuller Rd exit of I-90 W or from Fuller Rd itself, I am very excited at the prospect of no longer having to wrangle with the Washington/Fuller traffic light. I haven't dealt with the new intersection during a full-fledged rush hour (Monday didn't count and I'm out of the office today) but if it works well, it will definitely make my morning commute just a little bit less headachey.

I look forward to reading about second impressions after a dark commute home.

I saw the most impressive almost car accident there. Someone was turning left into the traffic circle when they should have gone right... I don't even know how a car can try to make a left into one of those curves but I was impressed, as well as scared for the person behind the wheel.

I understand that roundabouts (traffic circles) give people a lot of stress, but if people would just approach them as an intersection where you use your directionals to let your fellow drivers know where you need to go things would go much smoother.

I think we need roundabout lessons, or better signs as a education tool just until people get used to them.

@Carl: I agree about it feeling overbuilt -- the stretch there from the circle on Fuller by the I-90 ramp south across Washington just feels really cramped.

@KB: I thought the SPUI was weird at first, but I've come to appreciate it. The wide open expanse of pavement in the middle is a little weird -- I'm a little amazed sometimes that people end up where they're supposed to be going. That said, it's easy to see across the intersection. And the it really seems to have straightened out the traffic there. And I think it's the only intersection design to ever prompt a thank you comment.

@Kathleen: Without good lighting I could see how circle could become a grip-the-steering-wheel-hard kind of situation.

@Lola: That is crazy.

@Christina: You might be right. I'm imagining one of those old educational films from the 1960s: "Roundabouts and You."

See that sign in the first picture? It contains the word "yield". Judging by most people's actions, yield is either like a yellow light (meaning speed up to 'beat' the sign), or it's a funny-shaped stop sign (meaning slam on the brakes at the last second).

Yield means to either: stop for oncoming traffic to yield the right of way, or it means to cautiously proceed without stopping given a total lack of oncoming traffic. Traffic IN the circle always has the right of way.

It's not an Grand Prix racecourse out there folks. Take it easy, don't be distracted and by all means: yield.

I've been avoiding this intersection for months. I will definitely have to try it out during daylight hours first. It's not the roundabout that concerns me, but the placement of signage to direct people to where they want to go. It seems like that should have been a bigger priority.

While I understand this was a necessary step to easing the congestion and am oddly one of the few folks who supports/likes traffic circles, I worry about how they make this overhauled intersection safe and convenient for pedestrians. I know that the next phase will include upgrades for bikers and walkers, but my worry is they will not go far enough to make the experience friendly for someone like myself who only commutes by car for about 5% of my trips. My worries largely stem from my experiences with the first circle established outside of UAlbany, where cars refuse to stop for pedestrians waiting to cross in their rush to tackle the circle before the next guy, meaning I have to wait at the sidelines for a long time before I can cross. At least with a traditional intersection, I can cross when the opposing side gets their green and I’m granted my right of way (though, most cars refuse to acknowledge this right). If only as a pedestrian, I had the ability to hit a button that would issue a red light to all corners of the roundabout to prevent traffic from entering allowing me to safely cross; but then again, I guess that would go against the intent of the free-for-all, keep-it-moving concept of a roundabout.

The SPUI has completely changed the intersection of 7 and 87 for the better in my mind. I used to avoid that bridge like the plague, but these days if I wait 30 seconds I'm usually moving and I've never waited more than 1 light cycle to get through. Maybe it's because KB @ Home-Baked Happiness and others don't drive there anymore...

Haven't been through it yet, but I'm interested in how bicycles fit into this. I'm skeptical.

I agree with Mike that the real surprise of the florcle experience is the stoplight that controls access to Washington Ave eastbound, alternating between traffic coming over the flyover and traffic turning onto Washington from Fuller road northbound. Sounds like I hit it from the opposite side as Mike - I was turning on from Fuller rather than coming over Washington - and I would say that the visibility from Fuller is probably even worse than coming around the Nanotech building on Washington. You get to skirt right around the roundabout so you think you're good and then - WHAM! - red light. (Hopefully that's not a literal "WHAM".)

I can imagine that without the light, it would be impossible for people coming from Fuller to get all the way across all those lanes to the I-90 eastbound on-ramp, but as someone who's pretty comfortable with roundabouts I found that I was definitely not expecting a light.

Anybody want to guess the cost of a SPUI? Those long bridges are the issue. Short spans like used with the modern roundabout solution should cost a whole lot less.
If you’re looking at the other side of a modern roundabout when you’re entering, you’re driving unsafely. Drivers entering a modern roundabout should first look for pedestrians, then watch for other motorists coming from the left and then watch for pedestrians when exiting. The motorist on the other side of the circle won’t get to you for 5 or ten seconds.
The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHzly_6lWM ).
Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Search www.iihs.org for FAQs and safety facts.

@R: "Yield means to either: stop for oncoming traffic to yield the right of way [...] Traffic IN the circle always has the right of way."

Which is a good thing, but don't get used to it if you travel, old school roundabouts in some parts of Western Europe (where we love them soooo much we should marry them) still honor the usual right of way, i.e. cars going *in* the roundabout have the right of way. This can be especially frightening in massive, multi-lanes roundabouts in cities like Paris, where a certain leap of faith is required to launch your car in the rotating traffic; in the rest of the country, a sign similar to "yield" is there to tell you it works the other, *safer* way.

Love it, love it, love it! Such a huge improvement. I live in New Scotland, so I'm accustomed to roundabouts--I go through 4 to get to Delmar. They keep traffic moving, even during rush hour.

The basic concept of how to navigate a traffic circle is simple. If you are in the circle...keep going until you want to get out. If you want to get in the circle, wait for cars to go by and drive on in. Not rocket (or nano) science! So why do things like this happen:

I drove up to the traffic circle and stopped because there were cars in the circle. The front car coming around the circle stopped to try and let me in. I waved him on to encourage using the circle correctly. Then the person behind him stopped to wave me and and would not go until I went. This backed up traffic in multiple directions! Why can't people follow easy instructions?

As an American who learned to drive in Europe (and on the wrong side of the road to boot) roundabouts and traffic circles have always made sense to me. When I moved back to the US and saw all these people stuck at intersections with stop signs or lights (and were puzzled by traffic circles) I wanted to jump up and down and say 'Folks, there is a better way!'. I'm glad our traffic engineers have seen the light and begun implementing them.

As an aside, my 13.5 mile commute to school in the UK had a grand total of two stop signs and a single light, despite going through two small towns and a smaller city. The sheep and cows encountered on the more rural parts of the drive, however were rather, um, less interested in the rules of the road.

I think this traffic circle is confusing because of the multiple spurs leading off of it, both on the left and right. I have used it several times, mostly traveling north and south on Fuller Road. I can think of a handful of people I know who would have a very hard time with the new traffic pattern. Some people are just anxious drivers, and shouting the rules at them isn't going to change that. Yesterday I saw a driver simply STOP in the middle of the circle. Driver was an elderly woman who appeared to be having a panic attack.

The dangerous part of the new traffic circle is how difficult it is for tractor trailers to make the right turn onto the exit ramp that leads to I-90 going from Western towards Central. The trucks need to make the turn from far in the left lane and still their trailers cross over deep into the right lane leading into the circle, far back from where the yield markers are.

Rode my bike along the Washington Ave. Extension over Fuller Road (heading east) yesterday afternoon. It was pretty unpleasant. Although there is a good sized shoulder, in the new and older parts, they both filled with so much debris, I was forced to ride waaaaay too close to the automobile lanes. The traffic doesn't slow to the required 30 mph as one approaches the overpass. There are no bicycle lanes and it's really unfriendly and feels unsafe.

I go through there to get to and from work, during rush hour, and I really feel it is absolutely ridiculous, unnecessary and a big waste of money. However, it does make my commute smoother.

Wait so did you make up this word 'florcle'?
I think floricle sounds better.
I'd like to see a diagram of it like you had with the SPUI.
Is it something like this?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Salida_autovia_a_rotonda.svg

People can't even seem to park between two lines in a parking lot.
Do you really think they can look down at a diagram on the road going 20 miles and hour and then immediately execute the maneuver?

Please tell me there's a Florcle Cam!

After many months of avoiding it, I decided to drive through this intersection.

Was heading east on Washington Ave. Came to the traffic light which appears to stop both Washington Ave and the incoming merge from the right. And voilà, the person behind me attempted to make a right on red and a tried turn into the merging lane.

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