The double-crossover diamond at Harrodsburg and New Circle roads in Lexington might not be flawless, but state highway officials involved in the road project consider it a sparkling success.
It's considered so successful that two more — on Ky. 536 at Interstate 75, and on Ky. 338 at I-75 in Boone County — are planned.
Authorities also are considering more double-crossover diamonds in Lexington. The Harrodsburg Road crossover is the sixth of its kind in the country.
Since the Harrodsburg project, which eliminates left turns across traffic, was completed late last year, the number of crashes in the area has decreased 42 percent, officials said. And although morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic in the area has increased by 30 percent, overall traffic congestion there has eased considerably, they said. Crashes and congestion in the area had been major concerns.
With a price tag of $5.5 million, roughly a third or a fourth of what it would have cost to revamp the intersection another way, it's a safe bet that the double-crossover diamond or some variation of it will become a more familiar sight on Kentucky roadways.
"The traditional approach would have been to add traffic lanes and to widen the bridge that carries New Circle over Harrodsburg Road," said Charles Wolfe, spokesman for the state Transportation Cabinet. "It would have been a lot of money, and our engineers felt that it wouldn't really solve the problems.
"You have to be innovative," Wolfe said. This is a good solution for a fraction of what it would have cost to enlarge that interchange and rebuild that bridge. ... I think it's safe to say that people will see this kind of solution increasingly years into the future."
Even before the new Harrodsburg Road interchange was designed and built, officials conducted a study that included the possibility of putting such a configuration on Tates Creek Road, said James Ballinger, the chief engineer for District 7 of the state highway department and the chief engineer on the Harrodsburg Road project.
"With the success of the one at Harrodsburg Road, now we could consider these as another viable option," Ballinger said.
Other potential locations in Lexington for double-crossover diamonds are Richmond Road, Old Frankfort Pike and Leestown Road, he said.
Ballinger said Nicholasville Road would not be a good candidate because of the volume of through traffic.
Natasha Lacy, spokeswoman for District 7 of the highway department, said Nicholasville Road also is not a good candidate because of the geometry of the interchange at Nicholasville and New Circle roads.
The stretch of Harrodsburg Road between Beaumont Centre Parkway and Alexandria Drive, with more than 35,000 vehicles a day traveling it, had the highest crash rate of any major arterial road in Lexington before the double-crossover diamond was built, officials said.
Heavy congestion and the number of vehicles that had to turn left across oncoming traffic were big problems there, Wolfe said.
But the new configuration, which combines all left-turning traffic with through traffic by having left-turn and through vehicles cross over to the opposite sides of the road at ramp terminals, has lessened those problems, officials said.
Ballinger said state highway department records show that there have been no serious injuries or fatalities from traffic accidents along the Harrodsburg Road double-crossover diamond.
"If you did have an accident, it would be less severe than at a stop-and-go intersection," Lacy said. With the elimination of left turns across traffic, "T-bone" type accidents, which are often disastrous, are less of a possibility, she said.
Ballinger said the Harrodsburg Road project did not create constant free-flowing traffic. The new configuration also has attracted additional motorists to the area, which has experienced a 30 percent increase in traffic during peak hours, Ballinger said.
"Folks will now use Harrodsburg Road, instead of Clays Mill or Nicholasville Road," he said. "Of course, it's going to attract more motorists."
"We feel like it's been a good investment of the funds and the taxpayers' money. ... Of course, it's not a perfect solution," Ballinger said.
A good report
Bob Nunley of District 7, who headed the Harrodsburg Road project, said the double-crossover diamond is considered a short-term fix of eight to 10 years.
"A lot of people thought this was going to be the cure-all. That's not the case," he said.
He said officials know that the New Circle Road bridge over Harrodsburg Road won't last forever, and they might look at modifying the double-crossover diamond when the bridge is replaced.
In a survey about the double-crossover diamond earlier this year, about 72 percent of the respondents said they thought the new configuration on Harrodsburg Road was a good solution to traffic problems there and that it should be considered elsewhere in Lexington and Kentucky, Ballinger said.
"We felt like that was a fairly good endorsement from the public about the project," he said.
More than 1,400 people responded to the survey, conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 24, apparently with some respondents not answering all of the survey's questions.
More than 62 percent of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed that the stretch of Harrodsburg Road was safer. Nearly 62 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the project decreased congestion on the corridor. A majority of respondents also said the double-crossover diamond was more convenient and easier to travel on than the previous configuration.
Some respondents expressed concern about driver confusion when ambulances and firetrucks on emergency runs drove on the double-crossover diamond. One respondent also said that the curvy stretch of roadway could be a nightmare for top-heavy vehicles.
"The last thing you want is your freight doing sudden shifts from side to side," the respondent wrote.
Still, the report was mostly favorable. And this week, those involved in the double-crossover diamond project got more confirmation that it was a good idea when the project received a regional award in the America's Transportation Awards competition, sponsored by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
A handful of people interviewed this week by the Herald-Leader had mostly positive things to say about the double-crossover diamond.
"Honestly, I think it's convenient," University of Kentucky senior Reginald Smith said Tuesday afternoon after he arrived at the Speedway in nearby Beaumont Centre. "It prevents wrecks, and it prevents confusion. I believe it lets traffic run more smoothly as well."
Jeff Langley, co-manager of the store, said people didn't like the double-crossover at first, "until they realized how well it worked."
"I think it's great," he said. "Someone definitely did their homework, that's for sure."
Karen Ison of Lancaster, who stopped at the Speedway for gas and a drink, also had positive comments about the crossover.
"I think it's easier to get on and off, especially if I'm turning left," said Ison, who travels on Harrodsburg Road regularly.
But Lori Baker of Lexington, who had stopped at the nearby S&S Tire store, wasn't so positive about the new configuration.
"It's great if you're getting on or off New Circle. Otherwise I don't see any improvement," said Baker, who travels through the crossover twice a day, six days a week.
Baker said other drivers glide in and out of lanes on the curvy section of roadway without taking notice of other vehicles.
"People are worse about not paying attention," she said, adding that she's seen two fender-benders since she's been driving through the crossover.
Miranda Woodall, a clerk at the nearby Liquor Barn, said, "I drive through there a lot. I don't know that it's made that much difference. But it's kind of neat. It's an interesting intersection.
"I can see it being confusing to out-of-towners. It's maybe helped a little," she said.