SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — For drivers like Brad Shugart, the simple drive on Clark Road underneath the I-75 overpass can take a frustratingly long time.
“It gets really bad. It’s horrible," said Shugart, a small business owner whose work takes him through the interchange multiple times a day. "It’s gotten worse in the last year or two."
Shugart said, in the past, the traffic and congestion at Clark Road's interchange with I-75 in Sarasota County was only bad seasonally. Now, after years of explosive growth, he said it's bad daily.
It's a trend the Florida Department of Transportation is dealing with all over the state.
“What we have that was built even just 10, 15, 20 years ago is now becoming obsolete," said Andy Orrell, a spokesperson for FDOT District 1, which includes Sarasota County.
Starting Monday, FDOT will begin the multi-year process of reconstructing the Clark Road/I-75 interchange.
FDOT will replace the current traffic pattern with a Diverging Diamond Interchange.
The diamond pattern, a relatively new concept in Florida, keeps traffic flowing in both directions by sending each direction to the left side of the roadway, which allows for quicker and easier exits onto and off of an interstate like I-75.
Florida’s first diamond was installed at I-75 and University Parkway in Sarasota County. There are a few others across the state and many more either in construction or planned for the Tampa Bay area.
FDOT says they’ve proven very effective at easing congestion.
“As with all things, it takes a little bit of time for people to get used to new things, but once they see what the benefits are and get used to driving it, it’s so much a greater improvement than what was previously there," said Orrell. "Then, people quickly become very excited about it.”
Orrell said they’re also safer than traditional interstate exits, because they reduce the number of “conflict points” between vehicles.
The work is expected to take about two years and should be done in fall 2023.
“It’s going to be a mess, just like the one up there on University was, but I understand you can’t do anything about that. It’s the way it is to build it. But, the hopes for it would be that it would improve the traffic flow enough to where people aren’t fighting over a lane," said Shugart.
Click here to read more about the project.