Watch above: It seems Saskatoon motorists still don’t know what a zipper merge is or they just don’t care to follow the rules of the road. Meaghan Craig finds out why some construction zone work-arounds are more successful than others.
SASKATOON – Road construction is a necessary evil but many Saskatoon motorists say they could do without the added headache known as the zipper merge. It’s been four months since Global News did a story on the zipper merge at the Circle Drive cloverleaf interchange and it appears drivers are still having trouble grasping how to properly zipper merge.
In early July, the Government of Saskatchewan began rehab work on Highway 16 over Idylwyld Drive overpass.
At that time, the City of Saskatoon promised it would make every effort to minimize disruption to traffic, with at least lane maintained in all directions. The solution: the city planted a zipper merge in both the northbound, southbound lanes of Idylwyld with drivers heading towards the city’s downtown experiencing the brunt of traffic tie-ups.
“It doesn’t work,” said one semi-driver heading southbound. “There’s too much traffic.”
Others admitted they loved the zipper merge and have found it to be fairly effective since it was introduced in 2013.
“For those who know how to do it, it works just great. For those that don’t, it don’t work,” said one Saskatoon motorist.
When done properly, drivers entering into a zipper merge are to remain in both lanes until signs say otherwise then alternate in a “zipper-like” fashion into the single lane. According to city officials they knew this particular road construction site might be problematic for those traveling south but it was better than the alternative.
“Without a zipper merge, it (traffic) would likely be backed up into signals at Marquis so that’s why we have implemented merge in the southbound direction as well,” said Angela Gardiner, the transportation director for the city.
“In some cases everybody is merging very smoothly and doing it as it should be, in this case because we have a lot more trucks, the start and stops it does make it a little more difficult for people to judge exactly where to merge.”
It makes for a slow go for those behind the wheel especially when southbound traffic is brought to halt to allow other vehicles to hit the highway to North Battleford.
According to the city, few complaints have been made directly to officials regarding zipper merges but chatter is non-stop on social media. Motorists are blaming other motorists for bad driving behaviors like merging too early or blocking others from getting into the single lane.
“We’re closely monitoring it, if we need to add additional signs we will as the traffic is increasing and if we do need to bring enforcement out, we will do that.”
More than 75 per cent of all major road construction is now complete but according to Gardiner that doesn’t mean the zipper merge is being retired for the season.
“What we’re seeing here is probably a reminder that we need to perhaps do a little more education so everybody knows what they should be but whether it’s the zipper merge or not, just follow signs when you’re going through the construction zones and everybody will get there at the end of the day.”
As for the rehabilitation project at Highway 16, government officials confirming Tuesday it won’t likely be complete until late October.