Traffic Tuesday Tip: The Diverging Diamond Interchange

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – It’s a little strange at first when asked to drive on the left side of the road, but once motorists get the hang of it– diverging diamond intersections are proven to save you time on your commute while keeping you safe. 

Springfield is known around the country for many things– including installing the nation’s first diverging diamond interchange.

“Those are the kind of interchanges that you’re going to come to and you’re going to cross over to the other side and almost drive on the wrong side of the road,” explained MODOT district traffic engineer Cindy Dunnaway. 

The ideal setting for the diverging diamond is an interchange with heavy left turn traffic onto a highway, that could be dangerous during rush hour 

“Where we’ve got a lot of left turning traffic rather than through-traffic on that arterial street, and it really helps to increase the capacity and so that way we’re able to get more cars through,” said Dunnaway.  

Traditional diamonds leave room for 30 conflict points, while the diverging diamond cuts that down to 18. In addition to reducing the risk of T-bone crashes, there are many other benefits to the diverging diamond. 

”It slows traffic down, so if you’re going straight through Southbound, you kind of have to slow down a bit as you cross through the first signal and you cross back over to the second signal,” said Dunnaway. “So by slowing the traffic down, you’re automatically creating a traffic-calming situation.” 

Even though diverging diamonds are intended to improve safety, motorists that do not have experience with the interchange can get confused, and possibly cause a side-swipe accident.
“[MODOT] obviously doesn’t want to put something in front of a driver that confuses them, so we try to do all we can when it comes to the signing and striping on the roadways,” explained Dunnaway. 

When it comes to pedestrians and bicyclists’ involvement in the diverging diamond– cyclists should follow the flow of vehicle traffic like usual, and pedestrians should use marked crosswalks that sometimes are surrounded by a concrete barrier for an extra level of protection. 

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