Drivers will finally have the chance to experience the new diverging diamond interchange on F.M. 60.
The interchange reopened Sunday after additional configuration was done and new signage was added throughout the interchange. Construction on the F.M. 60 overpass above F.M. 2818 began in March 2017 and is contracted to Knife River Corporation-South.
The new interchange is the fourth of its kind in Texas, said Bobby Colwell, Bryan district public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation.
Even though the new interchange is now opened, there will still be additional construction on the overpass until spring 2019, Colwell said.
"There is still much work remaining to complete the project," Colwell wrote in an email. "Medians, pedestrian facilities, aesthetics and traffic signals are some of the yet-to-be-completed work that remains."
In the end, the project will cost about $14 million to complete.
Colwell said the reason for building a diverging diamond interchange was to address local community concerns such as congestion, delay and safety.
Tim Lomax, a research fellow with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, said over the years traffic has increased on F.M. 2818 -- also known as Harvey Mitchell Parkway -- and Raymond Stotzer Parkway. Because drivers had to make left turns on Raymond Stotzer Parkway, which is also known as F.M. 60, without traffic signals, there were also safety issues that existed, Lomax said.
"The diverging diamond is designed to make that operation more efficient by handling the left turns in a way that doesn't conflict as much with the through traffic," Lomax said.
The new construction on F.M. 60 includes free-flowing turns, allowing drivers to make a left turn without having to cross opposing traffic, according to TxDOT. The interchange also will include traffic signals at the entrances of the interchange and a concrete island to prevent drivers from entering opposing lanes. Additional lanes will be added to the bridge as well, along with pedestrian pathways and bicycle lanes.
College Station police Sgt. Blaine Krauter, who works with the department's traffic enforcement unit, said the overpass had been a high-crash area for the city.
"Most of [it] was fail to yield making left turns," Krauter said. "[The new interchange] really takes that out of the picture. So from a safety perspective, it's fantastic."
Krauter said he hopes the new construction reduces crashes, but it's still too early to tell.
"With the new RELLIS campus opening up out west and the [biomedical] corridor growing, you're seeing more traffic go that way then you ever have before," Krauter said. "Hopefully crashes are reduced, and I think we'll see that, but you could also see an uptick in it just due to the amount of vehicles traveling through that area."
Krauter said drivers need to be aware of the new 30 mph speed limit on the interchange. College Station police will be monitoring speeds as drivers acclimate.
Krauter also warned that drivers need to limit their distractions while crossing the interchange, as lanes are currently tight because of continuing construction.
Colwell said the public can continue to reach out to TxDOT as the construction goes through its various stages.
"We are always listening to the public and our stakeholders to improve our work," Colwell said. "Our office responds to comments regarding the design approach and the construction effort that is ongoing."
When asked how the new interchange will affect drivers who frequently travel to Texas A&M University, Lomax said the interchange will help faculty, staff and students coming from the west side of campus near F.M. 2818 and surrounding areas.
"From the university perspective, we've got a lot of people coming in from the west," Lomax said. "We also have a lot of people coming from the south in College Station and the north from Bryan. This interchange handling the turns more efficiently will allow that to happen with less congestion and safer operation."
Lomax said TTI had input on the scheduling of F.M. 60 construction to make sure it didn't conflict with major university events.
As this upcoming school year begins, Lomax said TTI and other local and state agencies will be keeping a close eye on how the new interchange will affect the Bryan-College Station community and the university.
"We at TTI, as well as TxDOT, the contractor and the city are going to be watching this intersection over the next couple of weeks pretty intently," Lomax said. "We're trying to learn how the intersection operates. The first week of school is going to be a test, [and] that first game day we'll have some differences from our previous [ones]."