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Vermont transportation officials hold meeting on new type of highway interchange set to be built in Winooski

I-89 Exit 16 Diverging Diamond Interchange rendering
Vermont Agency of Transportation
I-89 Exit 16 Diverging Diamond Interchange rendering

The Vermont Agency of Transportation is about to begin construction on a highway interchange project. The Diverging Diamond Interchange at the Winooski exit north of Burlington will be the first of its kind in the state.

First planned in 2012, a new type of highway interchange at Exit 16 in Winooski, Vermont was approved seven years later.

A video on the Agency of Transportation’s project webpage explains how the traffic flow will work with the new Diverging Diamond Interchange.

“The DDI is an innovative traffic configuration where vehicular traffic crosses to the left side of U.S. Routes 2 and 7 roadway between the two signalized intersections. This eliminates difficult left hand turns without increasing the number of lanes or traffic signals.”

Last week the agency held a public meeting to provide an update on the $14 million project’s timeline and what drivers can expect when traveling through the exchange.

Project Manager Michael LaCroix says public awareness is key because groundbreaking for the first phase starts at the end of the month. He also noted that the project footprint expands beyond the highway off-ramps and interchange area.

“The scope of the project is reconstruction of Routes 2 and 7, otherwise known as Roosevelt Highway, in the Town of Colchester and it begins at the Winooski town line. And it goes 1.05 miles up north toward Colchester Village and it includes not only just the roadway corridor but it also includes improvements at signalized intersections as well.”

The largest part of the project is reconfiguring the highway exchange to the Diverging Diamond design. The new design was chosen, according to state officials, because it is proven to be safer, increases vehicular capacity and allows construction without impairment to the existing interstate.

For a brief time drivers will cross over to the left side of the road and LaCroix pledges that marking will be clear even in winter.

“It’s only for 400 feet at most and it’s all almost all underneath the interstate bridges. I can understand people’s discomfort of being on the left side of the road and not having any sort of direction. So we’re going to have very robust pavement markings so that they’ll be more durable during the winter when the plows come through and what-not.”

Contractor S.D. Ireland Assistant Project Manager Kurt Hutchins outlined where and when blasting is planned, what to expect and precautions being taken. He noted blasting is the biggest concern they are hearing about regarding their work on the project.

“People see movies and they think there’s going to be fireballs and rocks flying everywhere. That’s not going to be the case. It’s going to be controlled. There’s a small series of explosions. There’ll be a small delay between each one that’ll cause less vibration in the ground. They’re all going to be underground. There’ll be blasting mats put over the top of the trenches to contain anything from flying out. You know it’ll feel like an 18-wheeler drove by. It won’t be anything really significant. Blasting won’t be loud. There’s basically a small rumbling and that’s about it.”

There were a number of questions during the hybrid meeting.

One resident expressed doubts about the design.

“I’ve been in a variety of states where they’ve had these multiple diamonds and they’re good for some areas. But I don’t necessarily find that it’d be good for up here. And I don’t understand what all this ‘S’ stuff is and it’s just going to make for mass confusion especially with people that don’t know how to manipulate in the multiple traffic patterns.”