Drivers along Interstate 70 in the Kansas City area are getting used to a new way of merging through work zones - the zipper merge has been implemented and promoted in the Metro Area.
Two projects along I-70 in the Kansas City are using zipper merging in the work zones in both Jackson and Saline counties. Bridge repairs along I-70 at the Sni-A-Bar Bridges outside Oak Grove and Blackwater Bridges near Sedalia have created miles of backups and this newer merge method is hoping to help ease congestion.
“This is a different type of merge that motorists may not be used to seeing, but on highly congested routes, this is the best way to keep traffic moving safely," said Chris Redline, Kansas City assistant district engineer. "The safest merging is to think about two lanes merging into one. Not one lane merging into the other."
In most work zones, motorists start to merge as soon as they see warning signs, however, in dense, slow-moving traffic like on I-70, the open lane fills quickly.
When a driver in the closed lane can't move into the open lane in time, the closed lane ends forcing the vehicle to suddenly stop. The vehicle must then join traffic from a dead stop. This driving behavior can lead to lane switching, inconsistent driving speeds that cause crashes, long back-ups and road rage.
"Research shows these dangers decrease and traffic moves more smoothly when motorists use both lanes until reaching the defined merge area and then alternate merging every other vehicle - like the teeth of a zipper -- into the open lane," Redline said.