Friday, August 21, 2015

Engineers say to ‘zip it’ when approaching work zones

It’s always interesting to see what kind of new “safe” road configurations road engineers come up with. Anytime we stumble onto a new one, the Land Line crew immediately wonders how our readers – the men and women who literally live their lives on the road – are going to react to some desk-generated idea.

We haven’t been surprised that traffic circles or roundabouts aren’t exactly popular. The diverging diamonds are confusing and have left more than one trucker scratching their heads wondering if it really is safer.

Earlier this week, a Missouri Department of Transportation newsletter winged its way into my inbox. In it was a reminder about the “zipper” merging concept that state DOTs are urging motorists to use when approaching lane closures.

Certainly not a new concept, but one that spurred a bit of discussion around here – especially in light of the recent lane closures that lasted the better part of a month just outside our windows here at Exit 24 on Interstate 70.

The “zipper” method is to use all lanes leading up to a lane closure, and to alternate merging vehicles at the pinch point. Engineers say it’s a safer, more efficient method than merging into the through lane at the earliest convenience.

Here’s a video about it by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

All that said, we watched miles of trucks and cars backed up heading into the recent lane closure just east of the office here at OOIDA HQ. We saw tons (not all legal) of tactics used by drivers trying to get through the construction zone – early merging, shoulder driving, the touted zipper method, the “cut everyone off” method … you name it.

We also saw the trucks that formed the rolling roadblocks leading up to the lane closure, essentially forcing all vehicles to merge early.

All this raises the question: What is the safest way, in the eyes of the true professionals who drive these highways every day, to navigate lane closures? (Of course we’re talking legal methods.)

Just curious how you think this engineer-touted trick plays out in the real world.