Construction is underway on a new traffic pattern called a Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI) in north Tampa's Wesley Chapel that aims to ease congestion around I-75 and State Road 56, the Florida Department of Transportation said.
The idea of the $33 million project is to re-design a diamond-shaped bridge that already exists in the fast-growing area, which is near three shopping malls, a hospital and several hotels.
Transportation officials say traffic backs up in the area daily, especially when commuters are heading home from work in the evening. An estimated 67,500 vehicles travel westbound on State Road 56 each day, while 51,000 travel eastbound.
To ease traffic under the new design, some motorists will briefly move to the opposite side of the road. The design helps cars in the left turning lane make a smoother transition onto the highway, without backups at red lights or waiting for competing traffic to pass.
It may sound confusing. But John McShaffrey, community outreach manager for the Florida Department of Transportation, said the roadways will be clearly marked.
"We'll have more continuous green time for through traffic," he said in a statement. "That's the big benefit of it."
In order to explain the changes to drivers, transportation officials are hosting a public information meeting Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Pasco-Hernando State College's Porter Campus, 2727 Mansfield Boulevard in Wesley Chapel.
A video showing how the changes will work is also available from FDOT.
Another Diverging Diamond is already in use at University Parkway and I-75, at the border between Sarasota and Manatee Counties. Almost 100 exist around the country.
Construction on the Wesley Chapel DDI officially began January 7. Workers are now drilling underground and installing drainage pipes to support the addition of an extra lane on the state road.
All lanes will remain open during this phase, and no impact to traffic is expected, according to FDOT.
Some scheduled lane closures will take place between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. along State Road 56 and at interstate ramps.
Work is expected to be finished in 2021.