Diverging Diamond Sparkles
By now, I’ve driven through our new diverging diamond at University Parkway and Interstate-75 about 30 times. Only once have I been among the first drivers at the light just before the diamond actually diverges, and it is at that point that you realize how truly innovative the design is. As I passed by other drivers stopped at the light on the other side but aimed directly at me, I realized how extraordinary it is that this intricate road system opened and continues to operate pretty much without a hitch.
But to really appreciate it, you have to go back in time just a bit. My time here dates back to the days when I-75 was being built around 1981. Honore Avenue was a dirt road, and only cows and farmland greeted the brave souls that ventured northeast of University. Since that undertaking, the diverging diamond is one of the largest projects I’ve seen. We have certainly experienced a huge transformation in our region that continues as hundreds of thousands of people move here each year.
Located between Manatee and Sarasota counties, Florida’s first diverging diamond opened on May 21—ahead of schedule and after a major rain storm. Other than some minor inconveniences when the exit lanes would change, for such a large construction project, it really went quite well. There were no major holdups or hazardous debris for drivers. With the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange offices located right off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, I’ve personally driven through the construction, and while there were some interesting moments, it’s been pretty cool to witness this massive conversion.
It was with great pride that I witnessed our new infrastructure going in, knowing that it took an enormous collaborative effort that will benefit drivers, tourists and residents for many years to come. The project is a testament to both the Manatee County and Sarasota County Commissions who partnered on this $74.5-million federally funded project. State Sen. Greg Steube and Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh lobbied fiercely for this initiative in Tallahassee, and I would definitely call this as a major win for our region.
It was also a success because it provided so many construction jobs—around 750 total.
The largest in the U.S., this diverging diamond will become a model for others in the state—with more to be developed at intersections throughout Florida. All of this transportation planning is not only important for our residents but also for businesses, especially those with service trucks on the road. Patrons to these businesses expect services prompt and on time. No one likes waiting around for a late A/C or plumbing contractor, after all.
There is not, nor should there be, a stop sign at the border for those hundreds of thousands of people flocking to Florida each year. As a proactive and forward-thinking community, it is crucial to provide infrastructure like this to support our growth. Think about that the next time you diverge on our new diamond. Oh—and also, please stay in your lane!
By Mary Dougherty - Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.