The Fuller Road/Washington Avenue Intersection Reconstruction Project is, officially, an undertaking to improve pedestrian and bicycle accommodations, reconstruct the existing asphalt and concrete pavement, improve safety for all modes of travel, and to minimize the construction impact on the traveling public. What the intersection is now is a giant crossroads where, if you are a pedestrian or a cyclist, it can be a little daunting to traverse. There are three main options that the project committee has laid out for what to do with the intersection.
The first proposal is to keep it as a traditional intersection with six to eight lanes of traffic in which cyclists may have to cross two to three lanes of traffic to get where they are going. Not only is this option not ideal for the people they plan to be serving with this project, that being pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, but it is not that much of an improvement on the old intersection. It is still going to be hard to make a left, and cars will still be vying for your position on the road since the lack of a bike lanes and the right turn only lane force you on the road and into traffic.
The second proposal is for a two-lane roundabout where motorists and cyclists will yield to or stop for oncoming traffic and proceed when it is safe to. While roundabouts slow down cars because of the slow speeds they also have less points of intersection between cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists and therefore the three modes of transportation have less of a chance to get into an accident. Not to mention the fact that cyclists no longer have to cross two to three lanes of traffic to get where they are going. On the other side of the coin, cycling the aforementioned roundabout can be challenging because the roads are constantly merging in and out of the circle so you have to be extra careful when you are riding in one.
A Graded-Separated, 2-Lane Roundabout is just a fancy way of saying a roundabout with a bridge going over it for more efficient traffic flow. This seems to be the option most favored by the project committee for a few reasons. Like the rest of the options, this one has its good and bad points. With the bridge over the roundabout it seems like it would lessen the its traffic which is good for all involved and reduces the chance of an accident happening in the circle because it will have fewer vehicles, but this approach comes along with a few questions. Are bikes aloud on the bridge? If so will the speed limit be what it is on the Washington Ave. Extension where the cars can be going about thirty-five miles an hour faster than the bikes? If not is there going to be ample and safe merging opportunities where these cars, who could potentially be going faster as to make use of the shortcut, and bikes come together again on the Washington Ave. Extension? Is the very existence of the bridge signifying that bikes should not be allowed on the Washington Ave. Extension because it caters directly to cars going in the east/west direction?
According to the Pine Bush Transportation Study that was updated in 2004, which was on the slides for the project, “All improvements should have an eye toward bicycle and pedestrian accommodation given renewed emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation in recent federal legislation.” The slides also mention the Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Task Force which ran the Mohawk-Hudson Bike Trail Survey that talks about the beneficial impact on both the population and the economy in regards to bike trails. Basically, more bike trails equals more traffic through the area which is good for people who like to exercise and good for businesses because of the increased traffic. Lastly they referenced the Harriman Campus Linkage Study which proposes, in regards to Fuller Rd. and the intersection this project is trying to modify, “Examining the potential to stripe a curb-side bicycle lane or designed shoulder area (by painting the pavement, adding pavement markings, etc.) through much of the corridor.”
Clearly the surveys and study try to promote a bike friendly attitude in the projects that they were preceding. One of them specifically talks about putting bike lanes on Fuller Rd. The people that wrote them had positive and salient points regarding cycling and the impact it could have on the roads, communities, and the business around them that could improve these three proposals greatly.
In short, these all of the options set forth have their good and bad qualities, but they focus too much on what the cars can do to make the road safer not about what the bikes can do. This is a major reconstruction project on one of the main arteries in the Albany area, and bike lanes are not included in any of these proposals.
What do you think?