Construction begins on new I-95/Viera Boulevard Diverging Diamond Interchange


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Aerial views of the diverging diamond interchange show a project that should decrease traffic congestion in Viera.

VIERA VOICE Courtesy of FDOT

 

In November, tractors and bulldozers arrived near the intersection of Viera Boulevard and Interstate 95, marking the beginning of the controversial diverging diamond interchange (DDI) project.

Land preparation for the $17 million DDI, which has an estimated completion date of Spring 2019, signals the first phase of development. The Viera Company is contributing $2.5 million toward the project.

The additional access point will improve mobility in Viera and central Brevard County by reducing traffic congestion at the Interstate 95 interchanges with Fiske Boulevard to the north and Wickham Road to the south. Future development in Viera is expected, and the overpass allows for that.

“In Brevard County, Interstate 95 is a major north-south artery, so more exits are necessary as the population grows,” said Steve Olson, a communications manager for the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). “Brevard is a very linear county, and people need to use I-95 for (both long) and shorter commutes.”

Diverging diamond designs allow for continuous traffic flow. East- and west-bound traffic will be temporarily diverged from the right to the left side of Viera Boulevard in a crisscross pattern. Essentially, vehicles switch sides as interstate traffic enters or exits with a slight curve. This eliminates the need for traffic to turn left across oncoming traffic.

The crisscross-pattern intersection has raised concern among some Viera residents. In 2014, residents at an FDOT meeting voiced strong opposition to the DDI due to fears of an escalation of traffic, increased noise and potential accidents surrounding the interchange. A subsequent meeting in 2016 was held, reportedly with less apprehension from residents, according to the FDOT.

“The question is whether people are intuitive enough to figure it out,” Olson said. “And, we think they are. Stay in your lane and follow signals. Yes, you may be on the opposite side of the road. But, after a few times, drivers will be fine with this.”

Olson cited the Interchange Justification Report, which is the document used to justify a new access point or access point revision to an interstate. The Viera DDI report was started in June 2011 and approved February 2012. According to the FDOT, diverging diamond interchanges provide for increased safety since there are fewer conflicts between east- and west-bound traffic.

There was consideration given to address concerns with increased noise levels. The criteria to build a sound barrier includes modeling based on noise levels of 66 decibels and a cap of $42,000 per benefited receiver.

According to the FDOT, the project did not increase the noise level at any receiver that would be audible to anyone living near the interchange. Also, Olson said, if homes are located at a distance from a wall built on a right-of-way, a wall would have little effectiveness in reducing ambient sound.

“We have heard the concerns and we understand them,’’ Olson said. “In order to make this work, it really had to be a DDI.’’

The Viera diverging diamond is one of two such projects in Brevard. A second DDI is in the works at Interstate 95 and St. Johns Heritage Parkway, north of Micco Road in Palm Bay. (Estimated completion is Summer 2018).

There currently are 89 operational diverging diamonds across the United States, including one in Sarasota.

“The diverging diamond takes up a lot less space,” Olson said. “You don’t need as large of a right of way. It’s a change from what people are used to, but it will be fine. It will work out.”

No public meetings currently are scheduled. A flier was distributed to local schools and to residents within the project area. 

View the flier at
cflroads.com/asset/file/3236/2017-11-9_Project_Flier pdf.