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COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Transportation said they have made Stadium Boulevard safer for drivers. They celebrated the first diverging diamond interchange in central Missouri Friday afternoon.

State and local officials gathered in the Drury Inn parking lot on Stadium for a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday afternoon. The ceremony acknowledged a $12.7 million project, widening and improving Stadium Boulevard.

One of the projects included the first diverging diamond interchange in central Missouri. The diverging diamond allows traffic to cross paths over I-70 in a way that eases congestion and improves safety, said MoDOT officials.

MoDOT Engineer David Silvester said crews widened Stadium Boulevard from north of Interstate 70 to south of Broadway. In addition to widening the road, Bernadette Drive also had two lanes added. 

City Manager Mike Matthes said Stadium Boulevard is a particularly busy area because of all of the shops and restaurants, and he said it was very important to have the road rebuilt to help traffic congestion.

"Everyone uses Stadium," Matthes said. "It is a tremendous asset to the community to have it rebuilt."

Funding for the large project was shared between MoDOT and the City of Columbia.

"This was largely funded by the folks that shop in these stores," Matthes said.

MoDOT Engineer David Silvester said the biggest challenge of the project was getting drivers to adapt to the diverging diamond interchange.

"We did web videos, we did a lot of media, we distributed information on the Internet to give people an understanding of how to operate one of these," Silvester said.

Silvester said MoDOT will continue to look at installing diverging diamonds in the 18 other counties that make up central Missouri.