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'It was something the community wanted' | York County unveils its first diverging diamond overpass

York County unveiled the first ‘diverging diamond’ overpass, allowing for faster traffic flow and reduced backups.

YORK COUNTY, S.C. — The Gold Hill Road bridge over Interstate 77 is unlike any in the state of South Carolina. 

York County has unveiled the first ‘diverging diamond’ overpass in the state. Similar to ones already in North Carolina and other states, the design allows for faster traffic flow and reduced backups. 

Around 25,000 vehicles per day cross the bridge, and of the three plans for improvements that were considered, the diverging diamond showed the biggest improvement in traffic flow, according to York County Assistant County Engineer Patrick Hamilton.

"It was something the community wanted," Robin Peterson, a nearby resident, told WCNC Charlotte. "It was the option we all hoped for."

Because the Diverging Diamond Interchange is the first of its kind in South Carolina, some residents aren't familiar with the pattern and are hesitant to try it out. 

Glen Willoughby lives just minutes away from the interchange, but this morning he avoided it altogether.

“Very dangerous," Willoughby said. "You’re trained your entire life to stay to the right, and if you stay to the right there, you’re going into head-on traffic."

A Diverging Diamond Interchange is a diamond-shaped interchange that allows vehicles in two lanes to temporarily cross to the left side of the road, travel the bridge, then cross back to the right side. 

The same design is used on Catawba Ave., over I-77 in Cornelius, North Carolina.  

Patrick Winter, who was passing through Fort Mill, said he's used to seeing that kind of interchange in other states.

“They have them up in Maryland, and they’re pretty effective," Winter said. "They're kind of awkward to get used to.” 

This Diverging Diamond Interchange is designed to make traffic easily move through an intersection without increasing the number of lanes and traffic signals. 

It’s designed for high-volume traffic areas Construction on the project began in the summer of 2019, at a cost of $14.5 million. While the interchange opened to drivers Monday at 5 a.m., it's still under construction until October. 

“This is the first one in the state, probably 95% of the people haven’t driven through one before," Patrick Hamilton, who oversees York County's road projects, said. "So it’ll probably take some adjusting.” 

Hamilton said York County isn't planning any more Diverging Diamond Interchanges for now, but it does have three other interchange projects in the works to accommodate York County's growth.

RELATED: Gold Hill Road at I-77 construction project on time, SCDOT says

“People on our Neighborhood app said it has been great," resident Robin Peterson said. "It's going to make traffic go a lot smoother but, oh my gosh, it looks scary from the aerial view."

Later Monday morning, the Twitter account for York County tweeted a video explaining the design from the perspective of a driver. The video also showed some of the earliest drivers struggling to navigate the design. In the first 10 seconds of the video, at least three vehicles in the oncoming lanes can be seen running a red light.

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