Full Circle

Full Circle

Drivers give Airpark’s new roundabout a spin

By Kimberly Hundley

Drivers began navigating the much-debated, two-lane roundabout at Northsight Boulevard and Hayden Road on Jan. 11 and, aside from a little horn honking, the debut went smoothly

“As we expected, most people are negotiating it just fine; some people have a little bit of difficulty,” said Paul E. Basha, Scottsdale transportation director.

When engineers proposed replacing the intersection’s traffic light with a roundabout, the concept was met with resistance by many residents and some city council members. “There was a whole lot of fear and anxiousness because roundabouts are somewhat different,” Basha said, adding that engineering polls show the public is generally 70 percent negative before construction of roundabouts and close to 75 percent positive once they are up and running.

The main goal of the Airpark roundabout was to relieve congestion at the nearby Hayden Road and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard intersection. Because drivers no longer need to come to a full stop and wait—other than to yield to vehicles already in the circle—traffic keeps flowing.

Roundabouts also result in fewer collisions than traffic signals because vehicles are moving slower and there are fewer conflict points, Basha said.

The main thing for drivers to remember is they should slow down or stop to yield to traffic approaching from the left, then wait for a gap before entering, he added.

Mike Micco, who lives near Scottsdale Airport and works at GoDaddy in the Airpark, is pleased with the new roundabout. “I think some people are struggling how to use it, but it’s nice you don’t have to stop for the light,” he said.

Area resident Erin Pagel, however, remains unconvinced. “I don’t think people in the U.S. are trained to use them, because people aren’t used to them,” she said. “I’ve seen cars circling in there, and I feel bad for the tourists and old people.”

The roundabout project includes an extension of Northsight to Frank Lloyd Wright, giving drivers a second option for accessing the FLW roadway from Hayden.

The stretch of Northsight linking the roundabout to FLW is flanked by five automobile dealerships and was privately owned. Acquiring and transforming the roadway was one of the most difficult planning aspects of the project, according to Basha. “They used it as overflow parking for their vehicles, so we did need to provide parking facilities for [the dealerships],” he said. “It took a lot of negotiation. They were very cooperative but had concerns.”

The city also needed to widen the Northsight extension to make it correspond with public-street standards. Now that the traffic signal is functional, the dealerships are benefiting from increased access and visibility, Basha said.

Although several roundabouts are sprinkled throughout the Valey, the one that debuted in the Airpark is in a highly congested area and features a newer, more sophisticated design. “We hope that it will be a model for the entire Phoenix metropolitan area,” Basha said.

In the spring, the city will install a 25-foot public-art sculpture in the center of the roundabout. Titled “ Northsight,” the work depicts three stacked figures, with the one on top appearing to leap into flight. At night, the sculpture will glow from within with LED lighting.

“It’s going to become a landmark for the properties in the area and the Scottsdale airpark in general,” Basha said.

Next up on the transportation department’s Airpark to-do list is to provide a direct connection from the Pima Road/Raintree Drive interchange to Thunderbird and Scottsdale roads.

“It will be a curving road, but it will be a direct route,” said Basha. Because the city also wants to eliminate the need for stopping at traffic signals, more roundabouts are planned as part of the project.

How to Drive a Roundabout

• All motorists entering a roundabout must yield to circulating traffic.

• A good way to remember this rule is “Wait for the Break.”

• The right-of-way is observed at the yield sign. You need to slow down or stop to yield to any traffic approaching you from the left.

• Emergency vehicles always have the right-of-way. If an emergency vehicle enters the roundabout, pull over immediately to the right,

exiting the roundabout if possible.

• Pedestrians have the right-of-way when entering a crosswalk.

• When you encounter large trucks, give them plenty of space.

• Remember, all turns are right turns.