Department of Transportation touts diverging diamond in Sarasota

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) hosted a meeting Thursday night to discuss plans for the interchange at University Parkway and I-75. The public hearing is part of an effort to inform the community about the design being considered for the area. It’s called a “diverging diamond,” and this will be the first time it will be used in the state.

"Traffic here can be really bad," says Mark Fasel, one of the thousands of area residents who frequent the retail stores along University and I-75.

"It can be backed up 45 minutes just to get off the interstate 5 miles away,” he says. “And with the new mall coming in, I think that it’s going to be even more intense."

Fasel isn't alone in his fears.

"Going forward it’s going to be a nightmare,” says Sarasota resident Leslie Emery. “They should have put in the road systems way before they allotted the permits for the big mall."

But FDOT say the proposed diverging diamond traffic pattern will help ease congestion.

"This diverging diamond is extremely efficient, it will move traffic," says Robin Stublen, FDOT’s communications specialist. "The design engineers prefer these diverging diamonds because they take up less right-of-way space."

Stublen says that because developments in that area go right up the current interchange, the divergent diamond is the best option. FDOT even has plans to use the design at other Sarasota intersections.

"We'll be working on one at Clark Road, possible one at Fruitville Road, and we think we're going to have a hybrid version of the diverging diamond at Bee Ridge Road," Stublen says.

So far the projects are still in the design phase, and funding has yet to be allotted for construction -- details that have many residents concerned.

"I’m very skeptical; I really am worried about how this is going to work for this area," said resident Leslie Emery.

"We're not paying taxes to have debacles like this in the center of the state,” says Sarasota resident Richard Bottorff. “Hearing that this might be the busiest intersection on 75 in the state of Florida, I do have some future concerns for it."