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Diverging Diamond Interchange Coming to Branson
Drivers using the Route 248 bridge over Route 65 in Branson will have to get used to driving on the left-hand side of the road for a short distance when a reconstruction project is completed before Thanksgiving, the Missouri Department of Transportation said.
The interchange is being converted to a Diverging Diamond Interchange. It’s a new design first introduced in the United States at two interchanges in Springfield. Similar interchanges have been or are now being built or planned elsewhere in Missouri and in many other states.
An exact date for the switchover to the new configuration at Route 248 and Route 65 will be announced soon, but it is expected to happen before Thanksgiving.
How a Diverging Diamond Interchange works:
Signs, pavement markings and concrete islands will clearly guide drivers approaching and crossing the Route 248 bridge and will help prevent people from making a wrong turn into the opposing lanes. For a computer animation on how to drive a Diverging Diamond Interchange interchange, follow this link: http://www.modot.org/ southwest/major_projects/Greene/I-44andRoute13.html.
Here’s what to expect at the Diverging Diamond Interchange at Route 248 and Route 65:
* The opposing lanes Route 248 will “diverge,” or criss-cross, at traffic signals at each end of the bridge over Route 65.
* As you go through the signal, you will swing to the left, with oncoming one-way traffic stopped on your right.
* As as you drive across the bridge, you will be on the left-hand side of the road. Traffic crossing the bridge in the opposing lanes will be on your right, separated from your lanes by a double concrete barrier with a pedestrian walkway between the walls.
* Vehicles turning left from Route 248 onto the ramp leading to Route 65 will have a “free left” without oncoming traffic to wait for or turn in front of. This avoids the need for left-turn lanes or a traffic signal at each ramp on Route 248.
* Through traffic on the Route 248 bridge will shift back to the right-hand side of the road at a traffic signal at the end of the bridge. Oncoming traffic then will be on the left, the normal pattern, as you continue east toward downtown or west toward other areas of Branson.
The idea behind the Diverging Diamond Interchange, adapted from a design used in France, is to improve traffic flow, especially on a road where lots of traffic turns left onto a freeway.
The design enhances safety by eliminating right-angle left-turn crashes and reducing rear-end crashes.
Traffic is moving better with fewer crashes at the two Diverging Diamond Interchanges in Springfield. They are located at Kansas Expressway (Route 13) and I-44 near the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds and shopping areas in north Springfield and at National Avenue and Route 60 (James River Freeway) near the hospitals and many medical offices on Springfield’s south side.
Why a Diverging Diamond Interhange?
MoDOT engineers believe the Diverging Diamond Interchange is a good fit for interchanges where space for expansion is limited but something must be done to ease congestion. Funding and safety always are issues.
* The Route 248 bridge, generally in good condition, is being repaired and widened in place without the need to purchase additional property and building a new, larger interchange with a new bridge. That means significant cost savings.
* Reconstruction can be completed much quicker than building a new interchange. That means a shorter period of time for construction-related traffic disruptions.
* By reducing construction time and traffic tie-ups in a work zone, safety is enhanced for drivers as well as construction workers.
Over two or three weekdays during the second or third week of November, the Route 248 bridge will be closed to traffic, although all ramps will remain open. Weekdays will be used for the bridge closing to avoid disrupting Branson’s weekend tourist and shopping traffic.
Exact dates for the conversion will be announced.
The bridge closing will enable construction crews to paint new striping on the pavement, install new signs, build concrete islands and move and modify traffic signals — work that must be completed without traffic on the bridge.
Once the conversion work is completed, the bridge will be opened to traffic as a Diverging Diamond Interchange.
MoDOT and the City of Branson are partners in the $5-million project. APAC-Missouri of Columbia is the prime contractor.
The Route 248 bridge is being widened by 10 feet to allow for three lanes across the bridge — two lanes eastbound and one lane westbound.
The bridge is being repaired and the deck is getting a new driving surface.
The southbound Route 65 off-ramp is being widened to include dual right-turn and dual left-turn lanes onto Route 248.
New traffic signals and highway lighting are being installed.