'Diamond' interchange work underway

Nearly every driver in Manatee and Sarasota counties has the same complaint as Steve Cochram.

"It is quite a mess," he said.

With a brand new mall, homes and developments expanding along the two-county corridor, traffic has grown with it.  That has created a problem along University Parkway.

"It is heavy. It seems like you sit at a stoplight forever," he continued.

The Florida Department of Transportation said the solution is a 'diverging diamond' interchange. It is a massive project that broke ground a few weeks ago.

"It was quite a few years in the making. It was very needed," said Issac Brownman, public works director of Sarasota County.

An illustration shows traffic on University Parkway briefly diverged to the left, allowing for a more seamless flow onto the interstate.

"You really don't realize what is going on because of the way traffic is directed. It won't be as confusing as people would think it," said Billy Hattaway FDOT's District 1 secretary.

Additional lanes on University Parkway will give drivers more room while improving the traffic flow.
It is a design they say has been proven to work in other states.

"There has been a number of these built throughout the country and they've proven time and time again to move people through the interchange and also safely as well," continued Hattaway.

With traffic pouring out of new developments in both counties, officials knew something needed to be done.

"You have Benderson Park on the west side and you have Lakewood Ranch on the east side and this provides a good link a good transition in between those two areas," said Brownman.

State and local leaders were able to secure funding for the project earlier than expected.  The diverging diamond will cost around $74.5 million.

Officials expect construction to be wrapped up no later than September of 2017, but drivers say that is not soon enough.

"I think it's going to alleviate traffic around here near the mall and especially on 75," added  Cochram.

To view how the diverging diamond interchange will work visit: