Traffic Experts Suggest ‘Last Minute Merge'

Like the teeth of a zipper, vehicles in the two lanes would take turns interlocking into the open lane

There is a growing movement to change the way you merge in traffic.

Some transportation specialists across the country think it could be the remedy to road rage and jump start traffic jams in congested construction zones.

The idea is informally called the “Last Minute Merge” or “Zipper Merge.”

"Well the concept is that everyone goes to the end of the merge and then takes turns politely one in front of the other," Texas Department of Transportation representative, Michelle Releford explained.

Many motorists are tempted to make the merge as soon as they see the first warning of a lane ending, but traffic experts think the best idea is to continue driving and merge when you reach the end of the closing lane.

Like the teeth of a zipper, vehicles in the two lanes would take turns interlocking into the open lane. This would alleviate some backups in the open lane.

“It's supposed to reduce road rage and it’s supposed to be more efficient as far as traffic movement," Releford said.

Transportation departments in Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Washington have already started working to make the practice more common on their roadways. Missouri even launched a campaign explaining the usefulness of the practice.

The Dallas District of the Texas Department of Transportation tested the “Zipper Merge” years ago.

“It’s been tried in our district 16 years ago. We did it successfully on Highway 66,” Releford said.

That test was in an area with lower traffic speeds and lower volume of traffic. Releford warned the practice may not be as effective when higher speeds and volume are introduced.

Ed Guzman of Dallas knows local roadways well as he travels anywhere from 300 to 1,000 miles every week as a part of a courier service and he doesn’t like to take chances when it comes to merging.

“You know, I can see where that is beneficial but I really have a problem with it. Anything last minute involving a car [can be] dangerous,” he said.

The idea of resurrecting the “Zipper Merge” in Texas could become a reality.

“We’re actually looking at this again as a study,” Releford said. “Texas is booming and we’ve got a lot of traffic. We’ve got a lot of people moving here and we are looking for any way. TXDOT especially is looking for any safer way to conduct traffic.”

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