SPANISH FORT – After two years of construction and a major interstate exit being closed for more than two days the diverging diamond interchange at Malbis opened early on the morning of Wednesday, July 1.
The interchange is the first of its type in Alabama. The design is intended to flow more smoothly on the interchange between Interstate 10 and Alabama 181, Katelyn Turner, spokeswoman for the Alabama Department of Transportation, said.
In the design, traffic going north and south on Alabama 181 crosses from right to left to allow vehicles to move on and off the interstate.
Going north from Malbis, traffic moves in three lanes. After vehicles pass the exit for I-10 east, traffic comes to a stop light. When oncoming traffic is stopped, the northbound vehicles cross over to the left side of the highway to allow cars to exit onto the westbound lanes of the interstate.
“It’s gone smoothly,” Turner said Thursday. “We haven’t had any reports of problems by anyone using it and it actually was completed and reopened ahead of the scheduled time Wednesday morning.”
Work began on the $7.3-million project in March 2018. On June 28, the interchange was closed while crews finished work to allow the traffic pattern to shift.
The route is used by emergency responders from both Spanish Fort and Daphne. Spanish Fort Fire Chief Roger Few said officials and police and fire representatives from both cities met with ALDOT several times before the closing to discuss how the work would affect traffic and operations.
“They accommodated us very well,” Few said. “They assured us that if we needed to get through on an emergency call while the work was going on, we could do it. We only had one call and before they got there, the call was canceled.”
Few said tow trucks were stationed at the site during the closing to assist with any wrecks or breakdowns that might have blocked traffic while work was going on, but no accidents were reported.
Turner said that while most of the project is complete, some work will still be done on the site. Some lanes may be closed to allow paving work to be finished. ALDOT officials are also studying traffic flow and will install additional signs and lane markings as needed to help motorists understand how to use the interchange.
While the interchange was closed, traffic was diverted to alternate routes including US 31 north of the interstate and US 90 to the south.
While the project in Spanish Fort and Daphne is the first diverging diamond in Alabama, the design has been in place in other areas of the country and similar designs are planned for other parts of the state, including I-10 in Mobile east of the Wallace Tunnel, according to reports.