EAST COUNTY — In an attempt to shorten wait time at red lights and adapt to increasing traffic, the Florida Department of Transportation is proposing a new diverging-diamond-style configuration for the interchange at University Parkway and Interstate 75.
Kevin Ingle, FDOT’s project engineer, said changing the interchange from a diamond design to a diverging-diamond construction would accommodate increased traffic from the Mall at University Town Center, opening in October 2014, and Nathan Benderson Park, which is vying to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships.
“This is the ultimate interchange,” Ingle said. “It puts traffic on the opposite side of the road on University and eliminates two phases of the signal. Drivers won’t be spending as much time at red and yellow lights. This makes it more efficient.”
The widening and reconstruction project, whose design would be complete by 2016, would take place from north of Fruitville Road to north of University Parkway, spanning 3.5 miles, and one mile from Cooper Creek Boulevard/Cattleman Road to Market Street/Lake Osprey Drive.
Signal phases will be reduced from four to two, accomplished by getting rid of signalized left turns.
Currently, there is no money for construction of the project.
Ingle called that “normal” for big jobs, at this time in the process.
In a presentation to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, Ingle revealed details of the plan — one that arose in 2008, was the topic of conversation at a public hearing in June 2009 and has been discussed with Sarasota and Manatee County officials from the beginning.
He cited more needs, including the need to increase safety and provide a hurricane/emergency evacuation route.
He also projected the diverging-diamond interchange to bring an annual savings of $12.2 million — combined with reduced right-of-way and construction costs — and a 953-hour reduction in delay time.
Fewer delays and clogged roadways will mean safer roads, Ingle said. The presentation showed a 68% crash reduction.
In the proposed plan, traffic at eastbound University and northbound I-75 will cross paths twice, while all left turns will occur without crossing oncoming traffic.
The same will be true for westbound University and northbound I-75.
Pedestrians also get treatment in the plan.
Currently, pedestrians cross the street from a bike lane to the right of the outer lane on University, which FDOT calls “unsafe” due to conflicts with drivers in the left turn lane trying to get on the I-75 on-ramp.
In the plan, pedestrians would be able to cross while waiting at a barrier-protected median.
The plan even affects the highway, itself.
The current structure of I-75 at University, features three 12-foot lanes in each direction and 12-foot inside and outside shoulders, a design that will only be effective until 2014, FDOT estimates.
The new plan would add two special-use/auxiliary lanes from Fruitville to University in each direction and make the median smaller.
In the interim, FDOT could widen one inside lane.
A May 2014 public meeting will come before right-of-way acquisition occurs.
Then, FDOT will reveal final project plans March 21, 2016.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].