PERRYSBURG, OH (WTOL) - There's no doubt that Northwest Ohio traffic is challenging. So what if you were asked to drive in a completely different way - Like on the other side of the road?
That's exactly what will happen next year at Interstate 475 and Route 25 in Perrysburg, and it's called a Diverging Diamond.
Diverging means to branch off or deviate from a path, and that's what is happening in this roadway design. We investigated how the diverging diamond works for traffic, so you can be prepared on the roads.
You take the risk every time you get off at an exit when you come to a traffic light to make either a right or left. With the 90 degree left turn, you're crossing traffic and could be broadsided.
"Traffic was backing up on the ramps, onto the freeway, which is a very hazardous situation," said Thom Slack, an Administrator of Planning and Engineering for ODOT's District 6 based in Delaware.
We drove to Columbus to see Slack about a Diverging Diamond Interchange or DDI. ODOT built a DDI at Interstate 270 and Roberts Road in west Columbus in 2013.
"Rather than coming to all one point, where you have to make these hard lefts and rights, we now make more sweeping turns," said Slack. "And it has helped to eliminate a lot of the collision points."
But watch out because you have to drive on the other side of the road!
Thom showed us the new DDI on a satellite image. In one example, he showed us what happens if you're south on 270 and want to go east on Roberts Road. You get off the exit and turn left.
You don't have to wait at the same light with those turning right.
After a stoplight, you then are driving on the left side of the road. That's something we've never done before. After a second stoplight, you weave back over to the right side and continue on Roberts Road.
What if you are on Roberts and want to go west?
At the first stoplight, you shift over to the left side of the road, which once again is on the opposite side, and you don't get back to the right side until the
second light. You then continue on west on Roberts.
Here's an animation of how a similar DDI works:
Slack, from ODOT, insisted it is safe.
"It's just like driving through a winding residential street," he said.
But we weren't convinced just yet, asking him if it will feel like we were driving in a place like London, England.
Slack replied, "No. It will not be London."
We asked him to drive us through it. We want to go on Roberts Road, east, through the DDI to get to 270 north.
Riding in the passenger seat, Slack said, "And we'll be going through our diverge but as you'll see, as we sweep through these turns, it's really just follow the leader, follow the stripes. The signs are directing you straight ahead."
We went through the first traffic light and made the turn to the left - Cars aren't supposed to go this way, and we definitely haven't seen this in the Toledo area yet.
We have entered uncharted driving territory.
As we were driving on the opposite side, the traffic flow appeared to be working.
"We are on the bridge over 270 now, and you can see if you look. And you'll have to pan over to look for that traffic on the other side or be guiding through," said Slack. "We're going to make the left turn; We don't have to cross any of those trucks coming the other direction."
We then made an easy left onto the ramp for 270 North.
We made that same trip again to the other side of the road, and instead of getting onto 270, we kept going east on Roberts Road.
Our fear of driving on the wrong side went away after seeing a big concrete wall dividing the traffic.
"From this angle you do see the traffic approaching from the other direction but you're on a separate bridge, you're separated by a barrier. There's no opportunity to cross over and get on the wrong side," Slack said.
Our conclusion? It was a smooth ride, and traffic didn't get backed up from long waits at the lights.
ODOT leaders in Columbus aren't just hoping this different kind of interchange is successful. They say they have stats to prove it. Crashes here have been way down.
In the two years before the Diverging Diamond, 2011 and 2012, there were 18 accidents. But in the two years since it was built, 2014 and 2015, ODOT said there was only one accident.
Ed Newbury of Grove City likes the DDI. "We weren't sure what it was going to be when they were building it and when they first opened it. But after you have been over it a couple of times, yeah, it's a good intersection. It moves a lot of traffic." He said he got used to it pretty quickly.
Slack added, "You can always look at how big a sample but it's, you can't dispute that that is a great trend. That is a great trend."
The Perrysburg diverging diamond will be at I-475 and Route 25. It will be ready for traffic by Fall 2017. Learn more here.