SPECIAL REPORT: Traffic zippering

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - One thing everyone in Baton Rouge can agree on is how terrible traffic is.

What if there is was a way to possibly reduce some of the traffic congestion we see every day?

There's a concept called zipper merging. When a motorist comes up to a lane closure, the thought is to use the full length of pavement to merge into traffic. Vehicles in the closing lane would take turns merging in with oncoming traffic just like the teeth of a zipper.

It goes against the grain of merging in immediately.

States like Kansas, Michigan and North Carolina are introducing the idea to drivers. Studies show that in Michigan drivers saw up to a 50 percent reduction in travel times.

"If the zipper merge works like we hope it will with getting people to merge cordially and try to be polite to one another then you could really decrease the length of queue so you're not in as much traffic and also you can decrease your travel time. So that's what they've seen in other studies. That's what we're looking for, to see if we see that in our study," said Chris Vaughan, a researcher at the North Carolina Institute for Transportation Research and Education.

Vaughan is currently working on a zipper merge study across North Carolina.

He is doing this through a public outreach campaign to educate drivers on how zipper merging works. Vaughan said the cost-effective concept saves tax dollars and wouldn't require roadway construction.

"The biggest benefit would be potentially seeing a decrease in traffic and also just more fluid traffic. Being able to move through without really having to stop often even if you're in a lot of congestion," he explained.

In order for the concept to work, everybody has to play along and everybody has to play nice. Often, the issue is when motorists refuse to let other drivers merge into their lane.

DOTD Communications Director Rodney Mallett said zipper merging could potentially be something to use in the right situation but with inevitable road rage, this concept could negate safety.

"This is not something we are highly pushing right now. What we suggest is that everybody merge safely and efficiently at all times. The problem with the zipper merge is as much as you can suggest it and educate people on it, you still have human behavior," Mallett said. "For somebody who has merged early does not want to let somebody who they think cut in line get over. Or somebody who is in the other lane that's ending is ready to merge and they cut in front of somebody and now somebody is cut off or you have a road rage incident, which are all complaints about the zipper merge."

Some drivers say they are all for it if it means they could get to where they need to go faster.

"I'd be very willing. I think that sounds like a good idea. Anything that we could do to relieve the congestion and make traffic flow better would be good to me and I'm sure a lot of other drivers would love it," said Dr. Charles Malveaux.

To see how zipper merging works, click HERE.

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