Last push to educate as Appleton's "diverging diamond" nears opening

Example of a diverging diamond exchange traffic pattern (Wikimedia Commons)
Example of a diverging diamond exchange traffic pattern (Wikimedia Commons)(WBAY)
Published: Oct. 26, 2018 at 4:11 PM CDT
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A major construction project that had parts of Oneida Street on Appleton's eastside closed for six months is nearing completion. The interchange at Highway 441 and Oneida Street is a new design to the area called a "diverging diamond," and the push is on to make sure drivers know what they're doing.

While the "diverging diamond" is something Northeast Wisconsin has never seen before, the design will make it easier and safer to make left turns.

According to Chad Doran with the City of Appleton, "It reduces the incidents of opportunities for crashes, but it also keeps tracking more free flowing and that's kind of one of those nice benefits, too, because that's a busy intersection for a lot of north south traffic coming in to downtown."

Because the design is new to Northeast Wisconsin, a large educational campaign has been underway to teach people how to navigate through it. With the interchange expected to open before the middle of November, the City of Appleton recently put posters up in several parts of city hall to help engage drivers.

"We can reach a lot of people on social media, but we can't reach everyone. And what we have here, especially with early voting going on is kind of a captive audience when people are coming through the line to vote we've got them right there. So, we said, let's just blow up a big poster of what this looks like, let people actually trace the path they might take," says Doran.

And that's exactly what voters were doing as they stood in line.

Melissa Freeman says, "I saw a little picture of it on my phone earlier, but this is a little easier to see some detail on."

"It's helpful to see it nice and big like that and you can actually trace your finger along the road, figure out how'd you get from A to B. Social media you're just going to kind of scroll through really fast so very helpful," adds Corey Otis.

At a diverging diamond interchange, traffic in both directions is stopped at an intersection controlled by traffic lights on each end of the overpass. One direction of traffic crosses the overpass at a time.

Instead of going straight when the light turns green, the lanes are curved, directing you to drive on the left side of the road across the overpass.

Just like now, traffic in the left-most lane turns left onto the highway on-ramp -- only in this design, they aren't crossing lanes of oncoming traffic. Meanwhile, traffic in the right lanes continues on, following another curve at the end of the overpass that shifts them back to the right side of the road.

The light turns red, and the process continues for traffic coming from the other direction.

City officials understand that this configuration is new for many people, so when it does open next month they're asking drivers to take it easy and give everybody time to adapt.

Doran adds, "If everyone kind of just takes it easy, learns to adjust, I think we'll all be alright in the end."

Wis DOT video on navigating a diverging diamond interchange