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Schematic of a freeway-under SPUI in a country where traffic drives on the right. Traffic entering the freeway is in red. Traffic exiting the freeway is in green. Through traffic is in gray. All traffic motion of the same color can proceed simultaneously.

A single-point urban interchange (SPUI, pronounced /ˈspuːiː/ or /ˈspjuːiː/), also called a single-point interchange (SPI) or single-point diamond interchange (SPDI), is a type of highway interchange. The design was created in order to help move large volumes of traffic through limited amounts of space safely and efficiently.



A single point urban interchange is similar in form to a diamond interchange, but has the advantage of allowing opposing left turns to proceed simultaneously by compressing the two intersections of a diamond into one single intersection over or under the free-flowing road.[1]

The name "Single Point" refers to the fact that all through traffic on the arterial street, as well as the traffic turning left onto or off the interchange, can be controlled from a single set of traffic signals. Due to the space efficiency of SPUIs relative to the volume of traffic they can handle, the interchange design is being used extensively in the reconstruction of existing freeways as well as constructing new freeways, particularly in dense urban environments.[2]

The first SPUI opened on February 25, 1974 along US 19 (SR 55), which goes over SR 60 east of Clearwater, Florida. It was designed by Wallace Hawkes, Director of Transportation Engineering at J.E. Greiner, Inc. (now URS Corporation), who has been called the "granddaddy of the urban interchange".[3]

A typical freeway-over SPUI.

Sometimes a SPUI will allow traffic to proceed straight through from the offramp to the onramp; this usually happens when the ramps connect with frontage roads. Since most through traffic travels over or under the intersection, the SPUI is still much more efficient than a surface intersection.


The most commonly cited advantages of single point urban interchanges are improved operation efficiency and safety as well as reduced right-of-way requirements compared to other interchange forms.[4] Left turning traffic from both directions of the intersecting roadways are able to turn simultaneously without crossing the path of the opposing left turns. Because traffic passing through the interchange can be controlled by a single signal, vehicles can clear the intersection much more quickly than in a diamond interchange (which requires two sets of traffic signals).

SPUIs also allow for wider turns, easing movement for large vehicles such as trucks and RVs. Furthermore, a SPUI takes up considerably less space than a full cloverleaf interchange, allowing construction to take place on a limited amount of property and minimizing state use of eminent domain.[5]

Finally, single point urban interchanges are reportedly safer than other space-efficient interchange forms such as diamond interchanges. Research suggests that, although there may not be a significant difference between the two types of interchanges in terms of total collisions, the injury and fatality rates is notably lower for SPUIs than diamond interchanges.[6]


A newer SPUI in Everett, Washington built during 2007 and 2008.

The major disadvantage of single point urban interchanges over other types of road junctions is the increased cost due to the need for a longer or wider bridge. A freeway-under SPUI (as in the upper diagram) requires a wider bridge over the free-flowing road to make room for the compressed on- and off-ramps. However, this disadvantage poses less of a problem in cases where the arterial, or non-freeway road already requires a very wide bridge. The intersection of 97 Street, having seven through lanes, with Yellowhead Trail in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, though a diamond interchange in concept, required such a wide bridge that traffic-signal phasing allows this intersection to behave as a SPUI.53°34′53″N 113°29′31″W / 53.58139°N 113.49194°W / 53.58139; -113.49194 (SPUI Edmonton) A freeway-over SPUI (as in the lower photo) requires a longer bridge of the free-flowing road to cross the wider area required for the SPUI intersection below.[3]

Additionally, because vehicles must be able to cross the pavement in six different ways, a SPUI generally has a very large area of uncontrolled pavement in the middle of the intersection. This can be unsafe particularly if drivers are unfamiliar with the interchange type. Drivers making a left turn may become confused as oncoming turning traffic passes them on the right hand side (or left hand side in countries that drive on the left).[7]

Also, due to the large intersection area, the traffic lights need a longer yellow and red phase to clear the intersection, and even then it may not be long enough for a bicyclist entering on green or yellow to make it across before opposing traffic gets a green.[8]

Finally, SPUIs can be somewhat difficult to clear of snow. The large area in which lanes cross may have to be shut down to allow efficient and thorough cleaning lest a snowplow leave piles of snow, interfering with traffic and visibility in the middle of the uncontrolled pavement. Additionally, if the wide area of uncontrolled pavement is on a bridge, as in the diagram, the snow cannot be pushed to the sides of the bridge as it may pose a hazard to the road underneath. This problem can be exacerbated by the comparatively large bridge width required by the SPUI.

See also


  1. ^ Anonymous, "Urban interchange moves more traffic in same space; a design new to California improves congested diamond interchanges without taking more high-priced real estate," Highway & Heavy Construction 132, no. 8 (July 1989): 52-53.
  2. ^ Missouri Department of Transportation.
  3. ^ a b "Single-point Urban Interchange (SPUI)". Retrieved 2008-04-09.  
  4. ^ Bonneson, James A. Bridge Size and Clearance Time of Single Point Urban Interchange.
  5. ^ Missouri Department of Transportation.
  6. ^ Crash Comparison of Single Point and Tight Diamond Interchanges.
  7. ^ ibid.
  8. ^ Bonneson, James A.

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