Single-point urban interchange

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This article reflects countries that drive on the right. For countries that drive on the left, reverse right and left.
Schematic of a freeway-under SPUI 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, /ˈsp/ or /ˈspjuː/), 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 typical freeway-over SPUI
GA SR 22 Spur (Macon Road) and I-185 (Exit 6) connect through a SPUI

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 term "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]

Sometimes a SPUI will allow traffic to proceed straight through from the off-ramp to the on-ramp; 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.[3] 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.[4]

Finally, single point urban interchanges are reportedly safer than other space-efficient interchange forms such as (standard) 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 are notably lower for SPUIs than diamond interchanges.[5]


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.[6]

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).[6]

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.[3] In general, SPUI designs should not be used where bicycle traffic is expected unless fairly substantial changes to the design or special accommodations are provided.[7]

Pedestrians are usually not able to get through the intersection with one green light. It can take up to four cycles to walk through the entire length of a SPUI.[7]

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.

Three-phase traffic signals are required. Other interchange types designed for efficiency, such as the six ramp parclo and the diverging diamond, require just two signal phases.


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".[6][disputed ]

Several SPUIs, built in the 1970s and later, are located on German autobahns like the A40, A42, A44, A46, A57, A59 and A113 in Berlin. There is also a SPUI on the Frankenschnellweg, the urban part of the A73, and Maximilianstraße, in Nuremberg (at 49°27′06″N 11°02′17″E / 49.451708°N 11.038102°E / 49.451708; 11.038102). Smaller versions of the SPUI can also be found on non-autobahn roads in German cities, with right-turning traffic under signal control, located in Heilbronn, Karlsruhe, Sindelfingen, Stuttgart and Wiesbaden.[citation needed]

Use in Asia[edit]

Hong Kong[edit]



Beside some diamond interchanges, there are SPUIs at Eunos Flyover at 1°19′34″N 103°54′21″E / 1.326191°N 103.905765°E / 1.326191; 103.905765, Loyang Flyover at 1°21′37″N 103°57′40″E / 1.360214°N 103.961109°E / 1.360214; 103.961109 and the Paya Lebar interchange at 1°19′22″N 103°53′27″E / 1.322866°N 103.890912°E / 1.322866; 103.890912.

Inverted SPUI[edit]

Inverted SPUI where traffic drives on the right. Ramps are located between carriageways.

A rarely built variant of the SPUI is the inverted SPUI, in which the carriageways of the free-flowing road are separated, with left on- and off-ramps running between the carriageways and coming to a single at-grade intersection with the cross street. This can be built less expensively than a standard SPUI by allowing for shorter, simpler bridges at the interchange. An inverted SPUI in Greensboro, North Carolina connects West Wendover Avenue to South Holden Road at 36°03′53″N 79°50′53″W / 36.064781°N 79.848098°W / 36.064781; -79.848098.[8]

On Interstate 244 in Tulsa, Oklahoma are inverted SPUIs at Sheridan Road 36°09′48″N 95°54′16″W / 36.163289°N 95.904535°W / 36.163289; -95.904535 and Memorial Drive 36°09′44″N 95°53′13″W / 36.16234°N 95.886873°W / 36.16234; -95.886873. On Interstate 290 in Chicago, Illinois, at South Harlem Avenue 41°52′25″N 87°48′16″W / 41.873635°N 87.804505°W / 41.873635; -87.804505.[citation needed]

A three-arm inverted SPUI is in Pultney Township, Belmont County, Ohio, between Bellaire and Bridgeport on State Route 7 at 40°02′52″N 80°44′01″W / 40.047657°N 80.733542°W / 40.047657; -80.733542. Only the southbound carriageway of SR 7 bridges over them, while SR 7's northbound carriageway remains at-grade. A similar design used in a three-arm inverted SPUI of at-grade freeflowing traffic can be found in a seagull intersection. The cross street of this inverted SPUI are ending at a trumpet interchange on Interstate 470. SR 7's left on- and off-ramps run between its carriageways, meeting I-470's ramps at an at-grade intersection. I-470 itself bridges over both carriageways of SR 7 a short distance north of the ramps' intersection. This design was likely chosen not for cost savings, but because the northbound carriageway of SR 7 is bordered by railroad tracks, commercial properties and the Ohio River, and because I-470 bridges the river just east of SR 7—a more conventional interchange design was likely more difficult to achieve.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Anonymous (July 1989). "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 (8): 52–53. ISSN 0362-0506. 
  2. ^ St. Louis District. "Single Point Urban Interchanges". Missouri Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  3. ^ a b Bonneson, James A. (January 1993). "Bridge Size and Clearance Time of Single Point Urban Interchange". Journal of Transportation Engineering (American Society of Civil Engineers) 119 (1): 77–93. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-947X(1993)119:1(77). ISSN 0733-947X. 
  4. ^ St. Louis District. "Single Point Urban Interchange Frequently Asked Questions". Missouri Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 15, 2012. 
  5. ^ Bared, Joe; Powell, Alvin; Kaisar, Evangelos; Jagannathan, Ramanujan (May 2005). "Crash Comparison of Single Point and Tight Diamond Interchanges". Journal of Transportation Engineering (American Society of Civil Engineers) 131 (5): 379–381. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-947X(2005)131:5(379). ISSN 0733-947X. 
  6. ^ a b c "Single-point Urban Interchange (SPUI)". Retrieved April 9, 2008. [unreliable source?]
  7. ^ a b Qureshi, Mohammad; Sugathan, Navin; Lasod, Rohit; Spring, Gary (September 2004). "Design of Single Point Urban Interchanges, Research Investigation 02-015" (PDF). Missouri Department of Transportation Research, Development, and Technology, University of Missouri-Rolla. Retrieved February 10, 2010. 
  8. ^ Reid, Jonathan (July 2004). "Unconventional Arterial Intersection Design, Management and Operations Strategies" (PDF). Parsons Brinckerhoff. Retrieved September 9, 2012. 

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