WEST CHESTER, Ohio — As Tri-State drivers have become accustomed to driving through roundabouts, they will soon be introduced to a new traffic configuration.
“They’re going to adapt to it pretty readily," said Greg Wilkens, Butler County Engineer.
He's talking about the diverging diamond interchange that is nearing completion along Union Centre Boulevard at I-75 in West Chester. Construction began over a year ago on the project to change the traditional interchange into a configuration with a unique traffic pattern that at times has drivers move to the left of the road to make left hand turns.
Now, a major portion of the construction, one which causes a shutdown of the Union Centre Boulevard overpass, is the next major step in the transformation. The closure of the major roadway is expected to last for approximately five days.
“You will not be able to cross the bridge," Wilkens said. "Traffic will be maintained at all the ramps. So, you can exit the ramps or you can enter the ramps. But, it will be a right turn movement on all four lanes.”
Wilkens said he expects to know exactly when contractors will be ready to do that closure soon. There will be extensive detours in place for traffic exiting at Union Center both northbound and southbound. However, when the closure is finished, the interchange will re-open with the new configuration in place.
“As we get closer to the conversion of the interchange from a standard interchange to a DDI, then we’ll utilize social media and those other platforms to get educational information out to our residents and businesses so that they know how to operate the DDI safely,” said Tim Franck, community services director for West Chester.
This will be only the third diverging diamond interchange in Ohio, and the first one to open in the Tri-State. Three similar interchanges are planned in Northern Kentucky. Transportation officials say the unique interchanges reduce conflict points which could reduce accidents by 20% or more.
“Safety is driving component," Wilkens said. "That’s what (led us to) the roundabouts. And, that’s why we continue to use them. And, that’s really what drove this.”
The configuration involves directing traffic that will make left hand turns to the left side of the road to eliminate traditional left hand turns. The flow of traffic is expected to be more efficient.
West Chester is paying for the $20 million project, which they expect to be more than just a roadway interchange. The township is including a number of designs to make the interchange stand out and give it character. Decorative fencing on both the northbound and southbound approaches will include images of clocks.
“Obviously at the square we have a clock tower, and we’ll be doing some other landscape-type walls and designs in the infields that will identify West Chester,” Franck said. There will also be pedestrian access to cross the overpass.
Meanwhile, Wilkens said his office has not heard many complaints from drivers or the public since the construction has been underway for the last year. However, he does want drivers to remain aware of the active construction zone as they travel through the area.
“For safety of the workers, for safety of the traveling public, keep your speeds down around construction traffic,” he said.