Navigating Appleton's diverging diamond interchange

Example of a diverging diamond exchange traffic pattern (Wikimedia Commons)
Example of a diverging diamond exchange traffic pattern (Wikimedia Commons)(WBAY)
Published: Nov. 1, 2018 at 4:39 PM CDT
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On Friday, finishing touches were being put on the Highway 10 and 441 interchange scheduled to open Saturday morning, bringing the first interchange of its kind to Northeast Wisconsin.

People have a chance to ask questions and learn how to navigate Appleton's new diverging diamond interchange Saturday.

The city is hosting an event at the Appleton Public Library from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. so people can learn more about the interchange and its safety features. Bicyclists are encouraged to attend.

Festival Foods announced another public event with the DOT will be held 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday at its Menasha store.

, including videos and pamphlets.

Every other person we ask has a different opinion of this new interchange. Some people are terrified of it and think it's the worst thing ever, while others are excited for the way it will handle an already busy section of roadway.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation wants to assure drivers the interchange is safe, as long as you pay attention you'll be able to navigate your way through it.

"It works a lot more efficiently. The signals are only a two-phase signal so it's red for one direction, green for the other and then vice versa, you don't have all of the arrows that a standard intersection would have," 441 Project Manager Kurt Peters said.

The DOT tells us during the morning commute more than 800 vehicles an hour travel Highway 10 for the purpose of turning left on to 441. That heavy volume not only led to congestion but also safety concerns. That's why the diverging diamond interchange was put here.

According to the DOT, a diverging diamond interchange reduces by half the potential "conflict points" -- where vehicles can potentially cross paths.

It gets more traffic through than conventional interchanges and reduces backups, because vehicles don't have to wait in a left-turn lane for oncoming traffic to pass.

Overhead signs and lane markings will help drivers navigate through the interchange.

"It's different, but truthfully they're very simple to navigate. If you follow the pavement marking, you follow the signs, stop at the traffic signal when it's red, go when it's green. You'll travel right through, and most people won't even realize they went through a diverging diamond," Peters said.

The key here is to pay attention and have patience. The DOT suggests putting the cell phone down and eliminate distractions when driving through.

Wis DOT video on navigating a diverging diamond interchange

How the Diverging Diamond Interchange works

At a diverging diamond interchange, traffic in both directions on Highway 10 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 can turn left onto the Highway 441 on-ramp -- only in this design, drivers aren't crossing lanes of oncoming traffic, reducing a significant point of conflict -- or continue on Highway 10. Drivers follow another curve at the end of the overpass that shifts them back to the right side of the road.
"Once you get under the bridges you'll cross back across at a second signalized intersection on the other side and be on your way on Oneida Street into Appleton," 441 Project Manager Kurt Peters said.
The light turns red, and the process continues for traffic coming from the other direction.
Because of the flow of cross-traffic, drivers will no longer be allowed to turn right on red.