Dozens learn more about Diverging Diamond Interchange project at open house
Mark Owen, a senior transportation engineer with Orlando consulting, engineering and architectural firm TranSystems, describes the "Diverging Diamond Interchange" planned for Viera Boulevard at Interstate 95 to Viera residents John Stevelberg and Audrey Chow-Jones during a Florida Department of Transportation open house Oct. 13 in Viera.
After attending an informational open house about a planned “Diverging Diamond Interchange” at Viera Boulevard and Interstate 95, Audrey Chow-Jones of Viera walked away with a more positive view of the project.
“I feel a little better about it, but it was really confusing,” Chow-Jones said after she and dozens of others talked to Florida Department of Transportation officials and engineers during the two-hour event Oct. 13 at Viera Regional Park Community Center.
Chow-Jones lives in the Sonoma community and takes Viera Boulevard to and from her job at One Senior Place. So she was concerned after learning that the intersection’s current design will be replaced with a pattern that lets east-west vehicles from the right side of Viera Boulevard cross over at a traffic light to the left side. Once past the intersection, the lanes shift back to the right side of the road at a second traffic light.
Work on the $14 million project is slated to begin in fall 2017 and take about 14 to 16 months to complete, according to the FDOT.
The design, a new concept for Florida, makes for easier left turns onto the interstate, said Mark Owen, a senior transportation engineer with Orlando consulting, engineering and architectural firm TranSystems and a project manager and consultant for the Viera job.
“The two things that studies have shown about diverging diamonds is that they do operate very efficiently, and the second thing is that they’re operating very safely,” Owen said.
In 2014, about 300 residents attended a FDOT public hearing in Viera to complain about the proposed interchange. About two dozen spoke out against the plan, citing concerns about increased traffic, accidents and noise.
Owen said few people expressed opposition to the project during the open house. “They all understand the need for it,” he said. “I think they got a little apprehension to it because it’s a new interchange configuration, and I certainly understand that. They’re just wanting to understand how it’s going to function and more assurances that it’s going to be OK.”
An FDOT project development and environment study also evaluated future upgrades to Viera Boulevard, including widening the boulevard from two lanes to four lanes west of Tavistock Drive to west of Porada Drive and from east of Herons’ Landing to U.S. 1.
The interchange, a joint project between the state and The Viera Co., is meant to ease traffic congestion at the Fiske Boulevard and I-95 interchange to the north and the Wickham Road interchange to the south, FDOT planners say.
The interchange will be the second built in Florida. Another such interchange is under construction at Interstate 75 and University Parkway in Sarasota, according to the website divergingdiamond.com. Others are planned in Fort Myers, Naples, Miami and Jacksonville.
Some 69 Diverging Diamond Interchanges are either planned or under construction across the U.S. The first was built in Springfield, Mo., in 2009.
Chow-Jones said driving in the left lane while crossing over I-95 will feel unusual.
“I’ve never driven in the islands and Europe, where it’s going in the opposite direction of how we normally drive,” she said. “It’s going to be interesting.”