Drivers can try zipper merge method to move quicker in I-20

Drivers can use the "zipper merge method" to avoid delays on I-20.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (Ga.) – Just about all of us have to deal with the delays on I-20 due to several construction projects the last few months. So, NewsChannel 6 dug deeper to help the flow of traffic.

It’s a small change, but it could work.  When you see a sign that instructs you to merge on I-20, many people move over right away. But what if we told you that there’s a better way to merge that reduces traffic jams?

Tony Bennett drives on I-20 to and from Atlanta with his band, Almost Kings.

“It really does get annoying, you know, especially when you put in your GPS something that’s supposed to take two hours and then it turns into four or five hours all because of construction,” he said, noting that he has been late on several occasions.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid going in or around the CSRA without hitting I-20. But the past few months have been nothing but slow downs, bumper to bumper traffic and major delays.

Stephanie Moore has seen it too.

“I think it’s too much,” she said. “We’ve had like two accidents in the last two days?”

And yes, even crashes. Some fatal. Bennett said he thinks he has found a way to shave some time off of his journey.

“I have found certain apps that will help you get around I-20, but I think there’s just so much going on I-20 that even the apps are having a hard time trying to keep up,” Bennett explained.

“I come up Gordon Highway and come straight to Thomson,” Moore shared of her driving experience.

Maybe the NewsChannel 6 team should have used Stephanie Moore’s route. It took us an hour to drive from Augusta to Thomson Friday afternoon. Westbound traffic was at a standstill just after Belair Road around 12:30 in the afternoon. Eastbound traffic moved just fine. Our only warning was that we were in a work zone. But that didn’t stop some drivers from using the shoulder to get to the nearest median to do a U-turn. Columbia County Sheriff’s deputies drove the shoulders of the westbound lanes. Despite the slowed traffic, we made our way to a gas station in Thomson around 1:20 p.m.

We asked drivers at that gas station, “Have you heard of the zipper method?”

“No. No I haven’t,” Bennett said.

Moore had not heard of it either.

In order to help drivers flow through traffic better, we researched the zipper merger method. Typically cars merge quickly to the next open lane during a wreck or construction creating a single line that takes forever to get through. But the zipper method encourages drivers to utilize both lanes and resist the urged to merge until the last minute.

“Actually, I’m kind of guilty of that especially with the band. We drive a big van and trailer and people just like to fly around you so I’m kind of guilty,” Bennett said.

We asked Moore if she might give the zipper method a try.

“Yes, I will be willing to give it a try,” she said.

A spokesman from GDOT told us the state does not officially advocate the zipper merger method like other states because it doesn’t generally work here in the Augusta area. He said the habit has led to more backups and incidents. Drivers actually have advanced warning of construction projects about three to four miles ahead of time.

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