Pasco County's Diverging Diamond Interchange is scheduled to open at I-75 and SR 56
Drivers can expect a more normal commute through Pasco County, after the weekend, when the Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-75 and SR 56 opens and a new traffic pattern is finalized.
UPDATE: Due to severe weather expected this weekend, the opening has been delayed and the road closures will not take place. Transportation officials say they will reschedule the opening for a later date.
After two contractors and $33.6 million in construction costs, the Diverging Diamond Interchange (DDI), in Pasco County, is scheduled to open by April 4.
Construction on the road began in an attempt to create a more efficient and safe interchange where I-75 and SR 56 meet.
Kris Carson, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Transportation, says the new interchange is much needed due to the growth of Wesley Chapel and surrounding areas of Pasco County.
“There's a lot of work going on out there,” Carson said. “But if you drive that area, (you know that) this is a very heavily congested area as well, with lots of development, lots of stores and traffic.”
Once it's open, drivers will experience a whole new interchange that will allow efficient and safe travel through the area.
But before drivers in Pasco County can expect a normal commute, the current interchange must be converted to the new DDI traffic pattern. Crews will work through the weekend to make the change and drivers can expect to see road closures surrounding the interchange.
SR 56 will be closed to all traffic at I-75 from 11 p.m. Friday to sometime during the day on Sunday.
During the weekend road closure, no traffic will be allowed to travel through the work zone across I-75. Instead, all traffic trying to travel on SR 56 will be detoured using SR 56, Bruce B. Downs Blvd. (SR 581), and SR 54/CR 54 (Wesley Chapel Boulevard).
Two ramps will also be available for use at the current I-75 and SR 56 interchange, including the eastbound SR 56 entrance ramp onto southbound I-75 and the northbound I-275/75 exit ramps onto eastbound SR 56.
All other traffic trying to use the interchange will be directed via detour signs to use the current I-75 interchange at SR 54/CR 54.
Unlike the conventional interchange, some drivers may feel confused by the DDI traffic pattern when it opens for the first time.
However, after the weekend, drivers will not need to worry because they will be guided through the new interchange by barriers and signals that will direct traffic to the proper course, ensuring that motorists are not confused by the change.
Carson explained that once the DDI is open, no matter what direction cars are driving on SR 56, drivers will cross to the left side of the road through the interchange, and then cross back over to the right side of the road, on the opposite side of the interchange.
This will make it easier for drivers leaving the highway to exit the interchange and enter the interstate without waiting at a left turn signal.
Carson also explained that the interchange has a high left-turn volume and the DDI design is perfect for the type of traffic in the area.
“We chose a Diverging Diamond Interchange for this area because of the traffic congestion,” Carson said. “(With the design) you can increase the safety and it can move capacity pretty quickly through that area.”
After the traffic pattern is converted to the DDI, the interchange will not be at full-capacity until closer to the project completion date.
The contractor is planning to add an additional through-lane on both eastbound and westbound SR 56 and an additional turn lane from the northbound exit ramp onto westbound SR 56. The project is expected to be officially completed by summer 2022.