Merging in construction zones on I-35

I know previously someone started up a conversation about the proper use of the merge lanes on I-35, but I am unable to find that posting.

I now have been honked at, given the finger, had one woman actually move her car to block me and then just sit in the left lane blocking traffic, because I’ve properly used the left lane for merging and have zipped past all those who have chosen to sit and creep along in the right lane.  My husband has actually had cars swerve out at him as he’s passed, which is now making me nervous to even attempt to use the merge lane.

Have any of the local news stations talked about this? It’d be sweet if they’d all remind people that those of us who actually use the left lane and merge at the appropriate point are the one’s doing the correct thing.

41 Comments

TonyR

about 10 years ago

Here is the official MN DOT article about the zipper merge:

New Traffic System May Improve Driver Behavior in Merge Situations

Jadiaz

about 10 years ago

I've found on days no one uses the left lane traffic zips along. It is only when those one or two people go flying past everyone in the left lane, then attempt to merge, that the right lane comes to a halt before slowly gaining speed again. The left lane zipper merge may sound great on paper, but is ineffective and dangerous in real life. I do not agree with the behavior of the above-described motorists however. Those actions are out of line. In my humble opinion getting rid of the left lane would save us all headaches and troubles and keep traffic moving faster and smoother.

Don Ness

about 10 years ago

Here's the most important piece of the "zipper" merge issue that nobody ever understands - the key is finding compatible speeds in both lanes so that a merge is possible without either party coming to a complete stop.

It is NOT responsible for a person to go speeding past a line of cars and then come to a complete stop at the merge point and expect someone else to come to a complete stop in order to let them in.  The justification of this action drives me crazy -- it is not only selfish, but it works against the flow of traffic.

The point is this: folks should be able to use the "merge lane" to continue to move forward at the speed of traffic in the primary lane and then very naturally merge without forcing the primary lane to "break stride" -- perhaps just slightly slowing down to provide enough room for the other to enter.

By adhering to "same speed merging" you won't be pissing off your fellow motorists by speeding past them and you'll be appropriately using the merging lane.  That's the only way the zipper works.

draggy

about 10 years ago

I would have to agree with Jadiaz. 

When both lanes are moving along, the "zipper" version may work fine, but it is highly ineffective with traffic that is barely moving. All it does it cause more congestion, and dangerous situations.

Think of it like waiting in line at Target. Would you be happy if someone cut in front of you, or worse, in front of 5 other people who were waiting patiently? I think this is how most motorists view the actions described above, and why there are such strong reactions.

Sherman

about 10 years ago

Soooo ... Jadiaz, you are proposing getting rid of the left lane on all highways altogether?  Otherwise, there needs to be a merge at some point during construction.  The zipper method, when properly applied, is the best way to keep traffic moving.  It goes against every Minnesota 'nice' instinct, however, so people are going to fight the idea of it forever.  I confess that I was one of those who would get into the proper lane two miles in advance and get frustrated when people zipped by me in the closing lane.  When you think logically about it, however, why wouldn't you use both lanes as long as possible?

Jadiaz

about 10 years ago

I'm proposing getting rid of the left merge lane at a much earlier point during construction. It is already set up for one lane until you hit the area right down by the merge in coming off of Superior Street. It then opens up to two lanes again for that small stretch so one or two people every few minutes go flying by the right lane merge in and kill the flow of traffic in said right lane. I didn't think I needed to state I was proposing getting rid of only the left merge lane during construction since that was the topic at hand, but I guess there needed to be more clarification for some.

Nodnetni

about 10 years ago

I too agree that in theory the Zipper Merge should work, but it doesn't.  I feel no need to let someone in that saw a line of 20 cars and decided that they deserved to get in at the front of a line that has slowed to a crawl.

Perhaps the Merger point needs to be expandable. When traffic has slowed to a crawl the merger point is moved back and the flow will not be impeded by those going to the needed merger point. Thus allowing the flow to correct itself and then the point can be moved up again.

Shane

about 10 years ago

Most of the time, people are tailgating as well, which contributes the unnecessary slow down at the merge point.

Tom Ward

about 10 years ago

I hate to have to repeat myself, BUT, Defensive Drivers are to blame for virtually all traffic slow-downs. They drive like their lives depended upon it, instead of getting their heads into the game and playing with the rest of us. Why must we have to "dumb-it-down" to the lowest common operator. It's their duty to ramp up their skills, or get off the field.

Sherman

about 10 years ago

Moving the merge point back will only back up the traffic earlier.  It doesn't matter where the merge happens. If they started the merge earlier, everybody would be complaining that they are blocking off a lane for no reason. Anytime 2 lanes get reduced to 1, there is going to be a slowing of traffic.  The only time traffic won't slow is when traffic is light enough that it doesn't matter. Using both lanes until the last possible moment is the best way to keep traffic flowing in heavier traffic.

Jude

about 10 years ago

Thanks Don Ness for your comments. 

Well, Tom Ward, obviously you have never taken a defensive driving course taught by a MN State Trooper.  The main cause of accidents is speed. Driving is not "playing" as you refer to it and yes, my life does depend on it.  When I have to suddenly brake when I am in the right lane because some hoo ha pushes his/her car nearly in to my left bumper because they think they can jump the line then it causes me to write a note like this.  Defensive drivers are smart drivers, that is why there are classes on how to be one.  The skill comes in when we're able to avoid the hot shots out there who speed, causing accidents and thinking they own the road. 

Why doesn't this topic go away?  It seems a no-brain discussion between the road ragers and the safe drivers. 

Sam

about 10 years ago

I recall reading that speed does not increase the rate of accidents, but the severity of the injuries. 

The paradox of driving speed: two adverse effects on highway accident rate

Shane

about 10 years ago

Your life does depend upon your driving skills. My point was if people left enough room for others to zipper in without slowing down and coming to a complete stop, traffic would move faster.

natalie

about 10 years ago

Let me state that when I use the left lane I'm not "speeding by." I adhere to the speed limit (and usually am traveling slower than) and try to pace with the right lane traffic. I've got a newborn on board so I'm extra cautious these days.

jessige

about 10 years ago

I knew I voted for that guy for a reason, and it was his uncanny ability to describe how to drive properly.

year of glad

about 10 years ago

I'm with Shane on this one. Merges wouldn't be tripping up the traffic flow if people weren't right on top of each other.

Regardless, it isn't fair for mergers to cut 20 cars. They should have to maintain a reasonable speed.

adEm

about 10 years ago

Yeah when you say "zipped past" it sounds like you are going full speed and then suddenly trying to cut in front of someone.

As far as defensive drivers, your life does depend on it. Yes, it's also important to be decisive, and being overly defensive can be dangerous (coming to full stop on on-ramps scares me). I imagine going just barely faster than people, and putting on your blinker very early will get you more love.

Also you may be getting hate from people that have zippered just to get in the one lane already.

If we need to be trained on this 'new' way of driving, we may need more signage.

I'd argue that virtually all traffic slow-downs have aggressive drivers to blame. People slamming on brakes, cutting in front of people trying not to tailgate, swerving around people you feel are going too slow... Even if defensive drivers cause slow-downs, aggressive drivers make sure things stay that way.

I gave the finger to a guy in a giant 4-door pickup who cut across 3 lanes of traffic to 'zipper' me. I guess he took offense to it because he let me pass then pulled up beside me at a later light. I gave him a 'sorry' wave, but I wonder why he was more concerned about my gesture than endangering the kids in his car... and me. No more fingers from me though: overall it helped nothing.

Chad

about 10 years ago

I'm pretty comfortable with either approach to driving in the construction.  Just pay attention, try to anticipate what the others will do, and make the best move for that situation.  

The only thing that aggravates me is when someone comes to a complete STOP in the left lane WAY before the merge.  

Surface streets have become my savior as of late.

wildgoose

about 10 years ago

I'm sorry that has been your experience Natalie, I do not doubt it, but mostly I have found the opposite to be true.  I have been commuting the last 7 weeks or so and, although I usually am going in the opposite of the really heavy commuting traffic it's still pretty busy.  Still, just today I was remarking that the zipper seems to be working.  This morning, as it does most days, it flowed smooth as butter around 7 am in the Mesaba ramp vicinity (south bound).  And it is always smooth for me near Boundary Ave heading north, except on Fridays when I usually give up and go with surface roads, which offer lower stress, and better views.  

As for the speed demons in either lane, every day I see speed traps set up OR people pulled over and sometimes both along I-35.  Every day, usually both ways for my AM and PM commute from Cloquet area to downtown Duluth.  My advice is don't speed. Eventually you'll get caught, the fines are double in construction zones, and as mentioned previously, it messes up the flow for everyone.

ElPete

about 10 years ago

Honestly, I have had close to zero problems with the construction all the way around.  I live in Superior and go to Duluth 3-5 times per week.  Maybe that's part of it.  To me the thing is, although I realize this conversation is in part, I think we can do a better job of dealing with it, in general, in the meantime.  We can be grateful how sweet the highway will be when it's complete.  A pissed off driver is not an effective one. Just my $.02.

-Berv

about 10 years ago

When I was in grade school, my babysitter made me merge zippers with her.

David

about 10 years ago

I'd like to thank the mayor for the clear articulation.  It bugs me to no end when a car passes me at 20 miles an hour faster than I am going, then comes to a complete stop at the point where the lane ends, pops its blinker on and waits for someone else to stop to let it in.  That is not the zipper!

If our excessive politeness means that the right lane is already slowed to 40 miles an hour, then the left lane should also be going 40 miles an hour for the zipper to work, no?

PS:  Another reason to love this mayor:  saw him eating at Culvers -- a bowl of soup, I think.  He could probably have used the custard sundae more than I did, but still.  One of us.

B-man

about 10 years ago

The only reason anyone can "zip by " the patient folks in the right lane is cause they are too "sheep like" to USE BOTH LANES.  

MN DOT put up a F**king sign!! 
USE BOTH LANES

Why is this even a question?  If you come up on traffic that is merging, it is your responsibility to get into the shortest line, left or right.  Then "zipper" your way into one lane.

Bad Cat!

about 10 years ago

People should view the zipper merge as something similar to getting on or off an exit ramp: two cars want one lane, both adjust speed to make room, easy merge. Simple!

lightandfire

about 10 years ago

I agree with B-man. When provided with clear instructional signs, the appropriate course of action is a pretty simple deduction.

Bad Cat!

about 10 years ago

MN-DOT does have a sign there, but not many read it (either it blends into the other green signs). Someone needs to go out and make a big ugly sign and post it guerilla-style over the freeway: "Zipper-Merge! #1: use the left lane #2 don't be an asshole"

lightandfire

about 10 years ago

#3 Always read the fine print, especially when waiting in line with apparently nothing better to do than wax nostalgic about life before the traffic blockade #4 if you don't, you will get nowhere fast. #5 Quit whining and do the best you can with the situation at hand.

Kevin Jacobsen

about 10 years ago

Natalie, 

I did a story back in May on this for the Northland's NewsCenter. Enjoy! 

http://www.northlandsnewscenter.com/news/local/94983304.html


Kevin

Jeanine

about 10 years ago

@badcat... yeah, but there are a bare minimum of Twin Ports area drivers who know how to properly merge/accommodate a merger.

It seems simple. But I run into right-lane drivers who foil my best attempts to merge smoothly onto I-35 from 21st Av. W. all the time.

Jeanine

about 10 years ago

Correction: I don't actually run into them. Heh.

W.T.F

about 10 years ago

Sorry Mayor, I love you but, the B Man is right. there is an official highway sign telling you to use both lanes. The left lane is faster because the right lane is at a stand still. The reason it is at a stand still is because people aren't using the left lane! That said, as you come to the merge in the left lane it is your job to slow down so you can merge with the right hand traffic at an appropriate speed. I drove for UPS for 8 years and as a card carrying teamster I say use both lanes, merge and let people merge at a reasonable pace. It is the same little dance you do when you get on and off a busy clover leaf intersection on the freeway. Basically every car is responsible to let in one car. To clarify that does not mean scream to the head of the line in the left land and then hit the brakes and expect someone to let you in. One last note if everyone leaves exactly one car space in front of them I swear to you there would never be a problem and there would almost never be a stand still. We can all go the same speed one car length behind the car in front of us as surely as we can riding on the persons bumper. Signed a teamster who has seen it all when it comes to stupidity in traffic.

Codie

about 10 years ago

An ever better solution would be if everybody just chilled out when they're on the road. Big jumbo freeways seem to encourage competitive behavior, which often makes it take even longer (i.e. the person who blocks the left lane completely).

What many don't seem to understand is this: The only reason people get so frustrated on the roads is simply because we've gotten accustomed to having these freeways where going 60mph through town is no big deal. But there are so few places outside of the US and Canada where cities are designed that way. I, personally, would like to see fewer people driving cars in general, because someday we won't be able to afford to repair these massive freeways anymore. We probably wouldn't be as stressed out all the time, either.

Codie

about 10 years ago

In addition, if fewer people drove cars regularly, the roads would be less congested and there would be much fewer bad drivers.

Don Ness

about 10 years ago

Rule of thumb, if while merging you require the primary lane to significantly slow in order to allow you to merge in - then you are part of the problem.

Ever consider why the driving lane is going so slow?  It's because eventually the driving lane must adjust (much slower) to allow for merges to occur from a car that is either stopped or has slowed down significantly because they've run out of real estate.  

Let's say that the traffic is moving along at 40 mph in the primary lane.  If I am in the merging lane, I'm going to use that real estate to adjust my speed to 40 mph to match the lane where I want to go, then I'll position myself in the between two cars in the other lane (we're all going the same speed), turn on my blinker, the car slightly behind slows momentarily leaving a larger space for me to easily merge in without any impact to the overall speed of the primary travel lane.

Contrast that with the situation in which a person "uses the entire roadway" by speeding past everyone and before they prepare to the merge, then slams on their breaks and requires another car to essentially stop to allow that car to merge.

The only reason traffic moves slower in the primary lane because the people aren't merging efficiently.  If we learn to merge better, traffic will move quicker, and there will be less temptation for someone to rush ahead.  It's a virtuous cycle.

Yes, you can use the second lane, but use that lane to do your job which is to merge with the least disruption to the folks who are already in the lane they need to be in.

RS

about 10 years ago

B-Man's right, how much more blatantly obviouse does this need to be?  There have been articles, it was on the news, AND there's a white sign right there on the side of the road.  The problem is still people get over into the R lane way too soon back in or before the tunnels (sometimes causing more of a jam with the traffic trying to enter from Lake ave or 5th st).  I do agree with the statements that cars are tailgaiting and not leaving enough room, AND speeding.  I never go over 45, even when the entire line in front of me speeds up, and when they slow down you bet your patootie I leave at least one car space in front of me.  I can't tell you how many times I've slowed and then glanced in the rear-view to catch the person behind me slam on their brakes to avoid hitting me.  If they were smart enough to leave some space, they wouldn't have that problem (and no I'm not "brake checking" to force them to slam on theirs, as I said I leave room so I can slow down gradually).  Personally, I think we should all have to take a refresher test every few years, or a refresher behind the wheel.  I would have no problem doing it, I'd like to know what I'm doing wrong.

kokesie

about 10 years ago

Fix some goddamn streets in town first!

Beverly

about 10 years ago

The News Tribune had a full-page editorial on the subject on June 27, 2010. It's archived now, but here's the link:

Our view: Don't be quick to judge who "the jerk" is on highway

michael

about 10 years ago

Blah, blah, blah. No matter how it is done, a merge in a construction zone will always slow traffic down. You have two choices:

1) relax and don't worry, stay in the right lane and watch all the other people pass. Or,
2) get in the left lane and pass all the other people who are relaxed and not worried about it.

The biggest problem with drivers in general is that they should have left five minutes earlier so they don't have to drive like idiots. I say again, RELAX!

Shane Bauer

about 10 years ago

My conclusion after all the talk and press on this is everyone needs to leave more space between their vehicle and the one in front of them, drive at similar speeds and use both lanes.

I think it might really be that simple, but getting people to do that - not so much, for whatever reason.

coho hobo

about 10 years ago

So we should continue to use the right lane even when traffic backs up to an on-ramp and starts backing up traffic through downtown? And no one would know cause they're all up front in the right lane! ???
Use the space out there, get in both lanes...not at the same time though like some aholes.

RandomPerson

about 10 years ago

Just trying to clarify here.

So if your are traveling down a conjested on-ramp at 1mph because all traffic in front of you is backed up, and you reach the bottom of this on-ramp only to find that the entire left lane is vacant, "proper" driving, would be to pull out into this empty lane, zip past everyone backed up in a line, then cut back in at the last possible moment?

Leave a Comment

Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here

Read previous post:
St. Louis County Primary Election 2010 Sample Ballot

Some notes on the Aug. 10 Primary Election: * This is an election in which you have to choose a...

Close