Here’s one way to make your commute faster: The Zipper Merge

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SEATTLE -- Long traffic jams in Washington seem like a normal part of life, but WSDOT says there’s one way to help the problem – if only a little.

If your morning commute takes you through southbound Highway 101 near Olympia, you know about the daily congestion on the roads there.

A major bottleneck for drivers is where the highway merges into a single lane near Highway 8. The underpass forces major backups, but don’t expect a fix anytime soon.

WSDOT says extending the second lane would require demolishing two bridges and rebuilding them with larger spans.

So, what can you do?

In late June, the department will be installing signs that encourage drivers to use a technique called the “Zipper Merge.”

They say it’s all about efficiency and making the most out of a limited amount of roadway in the area. WSDOT is asking drivers to make use of both lanes until the last minute. When the road finally merges, cars from both lanes should interlock one after the other – like the teeth of a zipper.

Right now, many cars merge early and drivers who speed through the second lane draw the ire of everyone else, thinking they’re cutting them off. But WSDOT says the Zipper Merge will make the commute faster for everyone.

“Nobody is cheating or cutting in line,” Doug Adamson with the department explains. “When you drive nice in the zipper, all of the unused road gets used, so we can all get there with reduced congestion and reduced scowling.”

It may be wishful thinking, but they’re hopeful drivers will take note.

The new signs are part of a pilot program that, if successful, may be used on more highways.

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