Diverging diamond intersection planned for busy northwest Austin area

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Major road changes are coming to the long 14-mile stretch of Loop 360 in northwest Austin. One of those changes includes a traffic flow change in one of the busiest intersections on the stretch — Loop 360 and Ranch Road 2222

The goal for Texas Department of Transportation officials is to get drivers to their destination safely while cutting down drive times. Traffic maps from the agency show that on average in 2017, nearly 50,000 people traveled daily along Loop 360. 

“From my understanding, from the drawings that I’ve seen, it’s going to be easier for me to get down RM 2222,” said Dawn Lanier, a realtor and longtime resident in the area. “I won’t have to stop at the light.”

TxDOT is proposed bridge at the intersection of Loop 360 and Courtyard Drive, her subdivision exit. Transportation officials say they would be removing the signal lights and adding an underpass.

“It’s a change, it’s a change in our own daily behavior but after a while, we’ll get used to it,” Lanier said. 

That’s not all TxDOT has proposed for Loop 360. They’re looking into a diverging diamond intersection or DDI, and Lanier admitted she’s not a fan. 

“I don’t like them,” she said. 

They’re starting to pop up in our area. First in Round Rock, then Southwest Austin, and now, potentially in the northwest side of town at RM 2222 and Loop 360.

“These innovative intersections are a little bit scary at first because they’re like, why are we moving to the opposite side of the roadway,” Brad Wheelis, a TxDOT representative said. “They really do work efficiently.”

Wheelis said the DDI is supposed to create “free-flowing” traffic, reduce crash points and help those making left turns.

“I am on the road all the time, showing houses so the fact that I can get up and down 360 at a faster pace, is big news for me,” she said. 

As long as the DDIs do what they’re supposed to do, Lanier says she’s on board. But there’s one thing she’s not looking forward to. 

Construction.

“It’s going to be painful going through the construction process,” she said.

The project could cost up to $40 million depending on what design is built, according to TxDOT officials. 

Transportation officials will host an open house Thursday night for the community to learn more about the project. The open house will be at Riverbend Church on Loop 360 starting at 4 p.m.

Those who cannot attend can fill out a survey online and take a look at a virtual workshop. Those who would like to give feedback have until March 22.

This proposed project is just a part of the overall Loop 360 project. TxDOT officials say the goal is to improve nine corridors along the road. The agency is doing it in sections.

One of those includes in the congested area of Spicewood Springs. Plans are in place to remove the traffic signal on the main lanes at Spicewood Springs Road and East Bluffstone Drive and replace it with an overpass.

The City of Austin is also working to widen a section of the busy road in that area.

TxDOT tells us diverging diamond intersections works to keep you and others drivers safe. The first opened to traffic in Springfield, Missouri in June of 2009. The government says since then, drivers feel safer and spend less time in traffic. 

One more reason TxDOT likes this traffic flow design is because because they say it improves mobility and safety.

Depending on where transportation officials select to construct a DDI could be a low cost project. TxDOT says for example, “RM 2222 will be a lower cost project because they’re not constructing a brand new intersection, but some diverging diamonds could cost more if they’re brand new like MoPac and Slaughter.”

TxDOT is also working on a DDI at Parmer Lane and I-35. They also have plans for one on Bee Cave Road. TxDOT will hold a workshop on that project in the near future. 

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