ROUND ROCK, Texas -- Williamson County is one of the fastest growing areas in Texas, and with more people comes a lot more traffic. Now state transportation officials are getting creative with a unique plan to fix the problem.
The University Blvd. overpass and IH-35 intersection in Round Rock is considered one of the most congested in the state, according to The Texas Department of Transportation. The intersection is next to Scott & White Hospital, Ikea, and a long list of other restaurants and retailers. TxDOT and the City of Round Rock say that as more people move to the area, or just travel through it, something has to be done to relieve the congestion.
"I've sat at that light for 10, 15 minutes before just trying to get home," said Jeremy Eller who works near the intersection.
Heading home, passing through town or leaving the nearby shopping center isn't as simple as it used to be.
"Sometimes it's bad. Sometimes I don't even have time to go get Starbucks," said Markus Hunter who lives in the area.
"Heading to school you see a lot of congestion, especially in the morning when you've got a lot of traffic going on. It gets pretty bad. You're having to wait there bumper to bumper," said Daniel Tercero.
The population in Round Rock is already more than 100,000 and the city projects that number will grow to at least 158,000 by 2030.
That's why TxDOT rated the intersection at IH-35 and University Blvd. one of the most congested in the state. They're planning to fix that with the "Diverging Diamond Interchange." The DDI is a European design that doesn't exist anywhere in Texas -- yet.
TxDOT says it won't be your typical intersection. They claim the innovative concept focuses on turn lanes and is a way to keep traffic moving.
"Every time I come out of here it's always really packed at that light. I think the main reason is so many people are trying to turn left," Eller said.
He's right. TxDOT says the new intersection will eliminate the left turn lane and instead allow those drivers to drive forward, then loop onto the interstate. The DDI does not allow thru traffic at the light. Instead, those cars will use the underpass and take the frontage road there.
TxDOT says this is also a cost-effective option. They claim expanding or redoing the overpass would cost more than $40 million, but the DDI will cost about $4 million; that will come from the state.
Construction on the project will start in 2014.