(Originally published on Oct. 28, 2021)By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The zipper merge is supposed to be simple. Use both lanes and then merge just before two become one, coming together like the teeth of a zipper.

That’s when the Minnesota Department of Transportation sign tells you to, on purpose.

So why does this concept seen so difficult for most Minnesotans? When WCCO reached out to folks on Facebook about this topic, we got comments like “people don’t understand it,” “sounds good in theory” — and more than a few “drivers are stupid.”

MnDOT’s Jake Loesch assures his fellow Minnesotans that they’re “not stupid.”

“We totally understand that the whole concept of the zipper merge kind of goes against human nature,” Loesch said.

He’s a passionate supporter of the technique, like MnDOT colleagues.

(credit: WSDOT)

“It feels like the wrong thing to do because it can feel like you’re budging, or you’re cutting in line,” Loesch said. “So we try to remind people that it’s not, it’s the right thing to do, it will actually get you all moving faster.”

By 40% to 50% faster, according to one MnDOT study.

“But it relies on two things. It relies on people using both lanes of traffic until that merge point,” he said. “But also, if you’re in that lane that stays open, you have to let a car merge in front of you.”

It can be dangerous at times, which is partly why not every state teaches the zipper merge. Kansas officials told WCCO they’ve only encouraged it once.

So if people don’t do it right, should Minnesota still be committed? Loesch says yes.

“If you’ve been through a merge point where the zipper merge is done, it feels magical,” he said.

In Minnesota, zipper merging is only meant for construction zones, like when two lanes go down to one. Drivers shouldn’t use it in on an “Exit Only” lane and then try to cut back in at the last minute.

Heather Brown