The zipper merge is aimed at curbing such behaviors as queue jumping, in which drivers move from the slower lane into the faster lane and then back to the slow lane closer to the merge point. It’s also aimed at preventing motorists who are in the faster lane from stopping abruptly and forcing their way into traffic. Some play “self-appointed trooper” and straddle the lanes so others can’t pass by. Motorists who impede traffic can be ticketed, said Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol.I see all these behaviors several days of the week on my commute, which takes me from my home in the northern suburbs to my office, which is more or less on the border between Burnsville and Savage. Minnesota drivers always merge at the first sign that a lane closure is coming and you will regularly see two lanes worth of traffic jammed into one lane, while the lane that is closed is empty for up to a half-mile before the merge point. It's a fascinating exercise and it's a behavior pattern that you don't see in other areas. You often see a variation on this behavior when you try to merge into traffic from an on-ramp. Cars in the lane where the merge point comes will refuse to move over to the next lane, even if there's no danger of encountering another car. It's passive-aggressive as hell. Personally, I always move over a lane if I can, or I'll slow down to let the merging driver in, but it's a courtesy that is only grudgingly given to me when I enter the highway. You just don't see this sort of thing in Chicago or Milwaukee or Kansas City.
The Star Tribune article notes the benefits of using both lanes, which should be evident but apparently isn't:
If followed properly, the zipper merge reduces backups, maintains uniform speeds in both lanes and creates a sense of fairness, said Sue Groth, director of the Office of Traffic Safety and Technology.But then, the Star Tribune undercuts the message by designating that using common sense only applies on certain stretches of highway:
“We know that the majority of people understand that it is legal for them to use both lanes, but that they don’t because they don’t want to be the person that is perceived as barging in,” she said. “That is exactly why we want to educate people about the use of the zipper merge in construction projects when it is congested. We are hoping that by telling them it is OK — and in fact, we want them to do it because it helps reduce backups — they will be more willing to participate.”
In the metro area, the zipper merge will be used on Hwy. 169 at the Bloomington Ferry Bridge and between Crosstown and Hwy. 7 and I-694 and Hwy. 55.Here's a thought. Can we use it on 35W during the rush hour, too? Or at any place where a bottleneck exists, which is all over the metro? Nah, it wouldn't be Minnesota Nice.
It will be used on I-35 and I-35E through Lakeville and Eagan, and on I-494 between Hwy. 100 and Cedar Avenue.