GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. Nearly five years ago Grand Junction and the Colorado Department of Transportation teamed up to create an affordable and safe solution to a somewhat congested interchange in between Fruita and Grand Junction. Today the city, CDOT and community members gathered to celebrate the unveiling of the Diverging Diamond at exit 26.
The innovative interchange has been open for a few weeks, but today all lanes were opened and ribbon cutting ceremony was held.
"I think it’s great to see us trying new things,” John Cater from the Federal Highway Administration said. “In every area we need to do that and in transportation we're no different. We need to keep trying new things and new concepts."
Grand Junction is the first city in Colorado to implement an on-ramp system like this. Team members who worked on it agree it will rid the area of traffic congestion, create safer traffic flow and help prompt economic development. Two truck stops have already opened in the area due to easy truck access.
"We are already seeing new development such as the FedEx facility out here at 23 and G road,” Grand Junction Engineer Trent Prall said. “Part of the reason why they chose this end of the valley was because they knew they weren't going to have to worry about transportation getting on and off the interstate."
The interchange will also eliminate a good portion of wait time for things like left hand turns. The system causes traffic to switch so that cars are driving on the opposite side of the road.
“I have been impressed with the innovation and how it's just so much more effective and efficient use of tax dollars," Prall said.
The Diverging Diamond cost $4,890,455, but actually acted as a money saver. The project was completed on time and came in under budget. Other options for the interchange, such as adding roundabouts or more lanes, would have cost anywhere from 10 to 15 million dollars.
"The concept of the Diverging Diamond is something the Federal Highway Administration has been promoting around the country and so, as the Colorado office, we're glad to see it happen here and we're glad to see it happen in Grand Junction before anywhere else in the state," Cater said.
At the start of construction there were two accidents, but because of the angle of the intersection they were minor and T-bones can be avoided. Some adjustments were made to things like lighting soon after and there haven't been any accidents since.
Two more Diverging Diamonds in Colorado have begun construction, one in Colorado Springs, and the other on the northern Front Range.