Indiana Day: INDOT Adopts Zipper Merges
The pandemic may have intensified Indiana Department of Transportation’s (INDOT) use of e-Ticketing, but today, its widespread use continues to advance and benefit the agency. Despite the agency’s extensive research and implementation plan, e-Ticketing still has a long way to go before all its suppliers are on board with this new, innovative tool.
An innovative remedy to traffic and road rage, INDOT began implementing zipper merges across the state during the 2021 construction season. Meant to encourage drivers to merge later rather than earlier, INDOT established these movable barriers across the state to improve traffic flow.
Indiana’s Extensive E-Ticketing Implementation
After careful monitoring beginning in 2018, INDOT implemented an e-Ticketing pilot program in 2020, at the height of the pandemic. This allowed its suppliers to submit e-tickets via email and reduce person-to-person contact. By keeping logs of all the trucks entering their loading sites, INDOT was able to ensure the accuracy of the pilot program.
After completing a successful pilot program, INDOT began to research and identify possible e-Ticketing systems to implement within their department. In September 2021, the agency entered a four-year contract with HaulHub, an e-construction platform. The technology simplifies industrial construction operations by allowing users access to real-time GPS tracking, electronic payment processing, data analytics and much more.
E-Ticketing is a market-ready technological innovation that allows suppliers to record and transfer information in real time as materials are being transported from plant to site. INDOT recognizes that, although e-Ticketing is both innovative and beneficial to the infrastructure industry, not all suppliers are ready to make the transition. The department still accepts tickets generated by any software its vendors may use.
“We have to be mindful that although the Indiana DOT is a big customer, in some cases we are only a small part of their business,” said Joesph Novak, state construction engineer at INDOT. “We don’t want to do anything, especially in this day and age, to eliminate supply options.”
E-Ticketing was formally implemented across the department in February 2022. Under the sixth round of the Everyday Counts initiative (EDC-6), INDOT released an implementation plan created to assist the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) with the new program’s execution.
A More Efficient Way to Merge: Zipper Merge
In March 2021, INDOT began utilizing zipper merges in several construction zones in an effort to improve road safety and ease traffic. During this implementation, INDOT encouraged drivers to merge early in light traffic and to merge late using the zipper merge during heavier traffic.
Often referred to as the ‘zipper method’, zipper merges are based on the concept of a zipper’s teeth, and are used when lanes are closed due to maintenance work or road construction.
As drivers approach a closed lane, they should remain in their current lane up until the designated merge point and then take turns moving into the open lane. If followed correctly, cars should merge into place in a zipper-like fashion. This approach keeps traffic moving and ultimately reduces congestion and speed changes.
Zipper merges are meant to replace the more common driving practice of early merging. When drivers switch lanes too early because of impatience or an attempt at politeness, it can cause more problems on the road. According to the INDOT, merging early can lead to drastic speed changes, road rage among drivers, unexpected lane switches and vehicular collisions.
INDOT utilizes the Lindsay Road Zipper System, a barrier transfer machine created by Lindsay Transportation Solutions. This technology allows for the easy transfer of reusable, moveable t-shaped barriers that connect to form a continuous wall. Instead of the dreaded orange cones that drivers often see before a closed lane, the zipper system provides drivers with a safer and faster way to merge, manages congestion and improves the way vehicles move on the road.
FHWA, INDOT, Caltrans