Construction began on Jan. 7 for a project known as the Diverging Diamond, in Wesley Chapel.
The project will redesign the existing diamond-shaped bridge that interchanges Interstate 75 and State Road 56.
“All we’re really doing is reconfiguring the diamond,” explained John McShaffrey, community outreach manager for the Florida Department of Transportation. “You still got the diamond, but how you get to the diamond and where you come off the diamond is going to be different.”
The project is expected to ease the flow of traffic, save time for drivers and reduce bottlenecks.
At this stage, construction workers are drilling underground and installing drainage pipes to align with road expansion on the state road. All lanes will remain open, as work will be done off-road – with no expected impact to traffic.
There are scheduled lane closures at night along State Road 56 and interstate ramps, to allow paving work to be done.
To avoid conflicting with peak traffic hours, those closures are scheduled from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and are expected to continue for the next three months.
Barrier walls will be used to block off one lane of traffic at a time, and traffic delays due to those closures are expected to be minimal, McShaffrey said.
There also may be some rare lane closures on I-75 at night, but most will occur on State Road 56.
“The diverging diamond is a popular new method of moving traffic through interchanges around the country,” McShaffrey said, explaining why that option was chosen.
The State Road 56 bridge, which spans I-75, will not be widened, but will be redesigned to accommodate additional lanes.
The redesign includes removing the pedestrian walkways on both ends of the bridge, and placing a single walkway between eastbound and westbound lanes.
Before reaching the bridge, the lanes on State Road 56 will crisscross, putting eastbound traffic on the north end of the bridge and westbound traffic on the south end.
State Department of Transportation figures reveal that westbound traffic is heavier than eastbound. There are 67,500 vehicles heading westbound each day, compared with 51,000 vehicles heading eastbound.
Also, the northbound ramp that leads to State Road 56 from I-75 is more congested that its southbound counterpart.
And, vehicles heading south from State Road 56, back onto the I-75 ramp, outnumber motorists who are heading north from State Road 56 onto the interstate.
In response, the transportation department plans to have four through lanes and two left-turning lanes heading westbound, and to have three through lanes and one left-turning lane heading eastbound.
The changes will provide a better flow of traffic for motorists, McShaffrey said.
Also, “we’ll have more continuous green time for the through traffic – that’s the big benefit of it.”
Once vehicles in the left-turning lanes pass the lights and reach the bridge, they can smoothly transition onto the ramps without any competing traffic.
While this will be a new adjustment for travelers, there will be visible pavement markings and overhead signs to clearly guide motorists, assured McShaffrey.
The $33 million project is slated for completion in late 2021.
Learn more about the Diverging Diamond
When: Feb. 26, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Conference Center at Pasco-Hernando State College’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch, 2727 Mansfield Blvd., in Wesley Chapel
Details: To provide information and answer questions about the Diverging Diamond, a project now under construction to change the configuration of the interchange at State Road 56 and Interstate 75.
Cost: The open house is free.
To view an animation of the project and receive updates on the Diverging Diamond, sign up for an alert at FDOTTampaBay.com/project/262/430573-1-52-01.
Published February 06, 2019