In the face of intense construction on Highway 12 near East Helena , the state of Montana is trying out a new merge system. The Montana Department of transportation is using a new technique called zipper merging.
The East Helena viaduct construction project is acting as a guinea pig for this system. The zipper merge is suppose to reduce speeds between two lanes, reduce traffic backup by up to 40 percent and reduce congestion on freeway interchanges.
“This is a test project actually. We've yet to determine if it is truly better. Some of our other states have used it with success so we figured we'd give it a try as well,” said Jeremy Wilde, Montana Construction Traffic Control Engineer.
Typically, Montana has used the early merge technique, which pushes traffic to one lane early on. MDT says that technique makes drivers stay in a longer line.
However, the zipper merge system is not without flaw. Drivers can still expect some delays. The system will be in place until construction is finished on the viaduct in November.