February 27, 2018 6:24 pm
Updated: March 9, 2018 5:49 pm

Diamond overpass opens 20-months ahead of schedule

Over a year and a half ahead of schedule, the new Pilot Butte overpass is expected to open next week. The diverging diamond interchange is the first of its kind in the province, and just the second in Canada. Colton Praill reports.

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UPDATE: Saskatchewan’s new diverging diamond interchange opened to traffic Friday, March 9, 20-months ahead of schedule, as part of the province’s largest transportation infrastructure project.

Over a year and a half ahead of schedule, the new Pilot Butte overpass is expected to open next week.

The diverging diamond interchange is the first of its kind in the province and just the second in Canada.

It also has Saskatchewan drivers scratching their heads.

“People don’t necessarily like change, they need to get comfortable with it first, so at first there was a lot of people questioning ‘you really want me to drive on the wrong side of the street?’” Paul Spasoff, the assistant director of communications for the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure, said.

The interchange features traffic lights on either end and drivers move from the left side of the road, to the right side of the road, and then back to normal.

It’s an innovative design that has become popularized throughout the United States; nearly every state has at least one diverging diamond interchange or is studying the merits of one.

The unique traffic flow is designed to make it safer for drivers merging on to the highway. Currently, Calgary is the only Canadian city to adopt the idea.

READ MORE: Canada’s first ‘diverging diamond interchange’ now open to Calgary traffic

“One of the biggest things is safety,” Spasoff explained.

“When they looked at the design of this, there is going to be a lot of left-hand turns, so when people are doing this, because they’re moving to the other side of the road there’s no conflict with oncoming traffic.”

A demonstration was held at the Cornwall Centre to show drivers how to maneuver the interchange.

While it gave people a better understanding of how to use it, public opinion was still split.

One person, visibly confused, simply stated, “do it like all the other ones, if you’ve got lights there you’re already impeding traffic.” Others were more open to the idea, noting that the way the traffic lights and curbs were set up should make the interchange intuitive for drivers.

A public walkthrough will take place on Saturday, March 3.

Another information session will occur Thursday evening at the Sandra Schmirler Leisure Centre.

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