MDOT encourages ‘Zipper merge’ during I-96 construction

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LOWELL, Mich. -- Traffic back-ups caused by construction projects can lead to delays, road rage and even accidents.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is well aware of this fact and points to a new method that is designed to cut down the amount spent in traffic by 40 percent.

The experimental process is called zipper merging.

"The zipper merge or late merge is when (drivers) take advantage of all the real estate," John Richards with MDOT explains. "You stay in your lane until you get up to the actual merge point itself, and then you take turns."

The idea is to keep traffic flowing.  Signs are posted instructing drivers that road work is ahead but also to stay in their lanes.  At the end there is a merge sign, in which drivers are then supposed to take turns merging down to one lane.

"All work zones operate under the assumption that everyone is following the rules, being courteous, and doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing as a driver," said Richards.

"This cuts down on the people zooming by," he said.  "It cuts down on the road warriors that try to cut off traffic when they see those people zip by."

You can see and experience zipper merging for yourself by traveling along I-96 in both directions east of exit 52, the Lowell exit.

We're told if this pilot program is successful, the zipper merge may make many more appearances next year during the construction season.

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