During the height of construction season during the summer, it can be easy to get caught up in long traffic jams along major roadways. However, MODOT is promoting a new way of merging to decrease traffic through construction zones.
“It’s just something that will help keep people safe and help keep traffic moving when we have a work zone,” says Jennifer Williams, the Communications manager at MODOT’s Southwest District.
When approaching a lane closure, the Zipper merger encourages motorists to fill both lanes and take turns merging every other car at the point of that closure. Typically, cars merge well ahead of the lane closure, which could cause more congestion.
Williams says while may just be starting to notice this new way of merging, the agency has encouraged the Zipper merge for close to a year now. Williams said it was heavily promoted earlier this spring during Work Zone Awareness Week.
“We’ve been posting things out on social media, we’ve included information when we’ve gone out to public meetings, when we have held information sessions on projects, and we have information on our website and a video out there on YouTube all about the Zipper merge.”
She admits it can be hard to change people’s way of thinking. However, she notes that MODOT is trying to change the minds of drivers through educational videos and animations, which show how much more effective Zipper merging can be.
“It’s those kinds of things where we can educate the public and show them this isn’t just some bizarre idea out of left field, this is something that has been around for a long time.”
And reactions are starting to come in.
“We’ve had a lot of feedback through social media, lots of people who are like ‘yeah, that makes total sense,’ …and obviously there are a people who are a little bit resistant to change, and need to see it in action for a while before they’ll agree with that,” said Williams.
In Springfield, drivers will start to see more Zipper merge signs started July 10, when construction to rebuild Highway 65 between Kearney and Sunshine begins. Parts of the highway will be closed to replace crumbling concrete.
Other congested areas due to construction can be found on MODOT’s Traveler Information map on its website. As for other states across the country, the notion of Zipper merging is gaining popularity, although Williams adds that this isn’t a brand new concept.
“It’s not really a new idea, it’s one that’s been around a long time, but I think since having it be termed the Zipper Merge, it’s kind of gained a bit of popularity, and so people are seeing it more and more now that it’s been coined the Zipper Merge.”
Williams says that MODOT ultimately hopes this form of merging will decrease work zone traffic, and promote increased safety across major roadways in Missouri.