Diamond Drive project hits a speedbump

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By Jennifer Garcia

Snarled traffic, uncooperative drivers and delays ranging from 40-50 minutes plagued those traveling Diamond Drive and the surrounding streets earlier this week.

Left turns within the Diamond Drive Phase 3 project are now prohibited. This went into effect on Thursday. Right turns are permitted, however.

Other significant changes have also taken place along the construction zone. Those traveling north on Diamond, who want to get to North Community and Quemazon will need to turn left onto Arkansas at the traffic signal. The timing of the signal will be adjusted to accommodate the heavier traffic, according to the county’s Web site.

An update on the Web site further states that message boards are being placed along Diamond Drive, south of the work zone, instructing drivers to use both lanes and to merge at a defined merge point.

“Tuesday afternoon we were able to reopen Sycamore/Diamond and Urban/Diamond and per schedule, the next step was to close the North Road intersection,” County Pavement Manager Tom Roach said. “That was to facilitate the tie-in of utilities in and around the intersection at North Road and Diamond.”

Roach said there was a considerable traffic backup on Tuesday night. “There were a lot of problems with people wanting to turn on North Road, but it wasn’t available.” Roach said the Public Utilities Department received about 20 phone calls, along with some e-mails from concerned residents.

“We took steps Wednesday to alleviate the problem. We have flagmen in the intersections to assist with turning actions, but we still had a problem because the peak hour traffic was coming across the bridge from the lab and they were getting in the right-hand lane soon after they got off the bridge, so that lane was stacked up past Trinity,” Roach explained. He said that because the lane was full and moving slowly, backups occurred on Canyon and Trinity, with people wanting to turn right on Diamond.

In an effort to educate drivers and encourage them to share the road, the county launched a public information campaign, asking people to use all the available driving lanes on Diamond and prepare to merge.

“We closed down the left-hand turns entirely on the work zone and directed traffic to Arkansas/Diamond, to divert the traffic,” Roach said. “We noticed a significantly better traffic flow from 4:30 to 6:45 p.m. We were able to get cars out of the intersections.”

Aside from the traffic problems work crews experienced this week, Roach said the project is going pretty well, barring the rain. Paving started on the west side this week and utility and concrete work is within a day or two of being completed. After that, the paving will be done.

Roach said so far, the contractors have been very good to work with, though the project is approximately 2-3 weeks behind schedule. Roach could not say why it was behind, however. He did say the weather has been somewhat of a hindrance. “Trenches that were ready to have utilities placed in them had to be reworked because they got flooded,” he explained.

Making the commute home tolerable and as low stress as possible is the goal for both the county and the contractor, Roach said. “We want to stress the importance of using both lanes of northbound Diamond as far down as Orange Street as they can. Merge with the traffic. Cars in the right lane should allow other cars in. We really need help,” he said. “We need this traffic control to work. If every other car could get in, that would help. We need traffic in all available driving lanes.”

Roach said the North Road work should be completed around Aug. 19 or 20, but cautioned that it may not be completed until Aug. 22. “Be patient and bear with us. It’ll be great when it’s done. There is an end in sight,” Roach said.