© 2024 WHRO Public Media
5200 Hampton Boulevard, Norfolk VA 23508
757.889.9400 | info@whro.org
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Suffolk will build its first "diverging diamond" interchange. We asked an expert to explain.

A rendering of the planned diverging diamond interchange. (Photo courtesy of City of Suffolk)
A rendering of the planned diverging diamond interchange. (Photo courtesy of City of Suffolk)

Part of Suffolk’s improvement plan for the congested Godwin Boulevard route includes redesigning where the four-lane road crosses the Suffolk Bypass just south of Sentara Obici Hospital. 

But just what is a diverging diamond interchange?

WHRO asked Old Dominion engineering professor Mecit Cetin how they work.

“The reason it’s called diverging is that traffic is moved to the opposite side of the road when you're crossing the freeway — that way, we have fewer conflict points,” he said.

Conflict points are places cars have the potential to collide.

Cetin said diverging diamond interchanges are often safer than regular diamonds or clover leafs, which are ubiquitous in Hampton Roads.

“The more conflict points means the higher the chance of a crash. And in interchange design, we want to minimize the number of conflict points. The fewer, the safer, typically.”

This isn’t the first time a city in Hampton Roads has looked at new traffic solutions. Norfolk’s continuous flow intersection — at Northampton Boulevard and N. Military Highway — was the first of its kind in the country. In Virginia Beach, the intersection of Kempsville Road and Indian River Road was redesigned to fully separate left turn lanes.

Will a new traffic pattern make travelers more prone to accidents at that interchange? Cetin doesn’t think so.

“It has been shown that people get used to it,” he said.

“There is definitely a learning curve associated with these innovative designs. The same was said for roundabouts…but overall roundabouts have shown to be safer,” he said.

Suffolk planners hope to build the intersection in conjunction with widening Godwin Boulevard from four to six lanes. They estimate the project will be complete by 2027 and cost $16.4 million.

The world changes fast.

Keep up with daily local news from WHRO. Get local news every weekday in your inbox.

Sign-up here.