Local infrastructure officials see “zipper merge” as traffic congestion solution

Local construction planners and city officials hope that the "zipper merge" will solve traffic congestion problems in the area.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — No one likes being stuck in traffic – but it’s often said that there are two seasons in South Dakota, winter – and construction season.

In Rapid City, drivers will find construction in areas such as Main Street, Omaha, and Deadwood to name a few.

More often than not, these construction areas lead to lane closures and a merge, where some traffic congestion and even frustration develops when merging is required.

When coming across a busy intersection or street that’s down to one lane closure due to construction, you probably get a little annoyed by that one person that decides to merge a little late. That’s where the zipper merge comes in.

The zipper merge is a traffic maneuver where drivers use both lanes until they must merge, while drivers in the non-closed lane allow them to merge but keep their speed consistent.

“It’s almost like NASCAR, only they’re going at 190 miles an hour, and you’re going at 20 to 30 miles an hour,” said Mike Carlson, the Rapid City Area Engineer for the South Dakota Department of Transportation. “Just give them enough room to get in, so that they’re comfortable about moving in.”

Drivers in both lanes must be completely aware of other cars in their blind spot and make sure they leave enough room to respective merge. This can cut down on travel time in construction and be a safer way to get to your destination.

City officials reiterating the kindness aspect but also saying not merge too soon as it could also add to the cluster.

“We would certainly encourage people to use all the lanes that are open up until they can’t, but that takes cooperation from everybody, so once again it goes back to driver behavior,” said Dale Tech, the Public Works Director for the City of Rapid City.

Speaking of driver behavior, Dr. Stephen Manlove, a psychiatrist at Manlove Brain Body & Health, says he sees driver aggression stemming from things like social media and not associating the other drivers with being humans.

In those conflict situations, Manlove says it’s best to deescalate the situation for everyone’s safety.

“If it’s not an important thing to be in conflict about, why engage? You know, this isn’t important. Let em’ in, let em’ do their thing,” Manlove said.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News, Traffic & Accidents