Drivers are being too nice, and that's leading to delays on I-94 near DOT-imposed "zipper merge"

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Tuesday, December 9th was the second day the "zipper merge" has been in effect on I-94 near State Fair Park. We've seen delays during rush hour in the zipper merge area, and Wisconsin Department of Transportation officials say drivers might be slowing traffic by being too nice!

A number of drivers say it's one of their biggest pet peeves: drivers waiting until the last second to merge. But DOT officials say the zipper merge works better for everyone when drivers wait to get over.

Backups are nothing new on I-94 during rush hour, but with traffic going from three lanes to two near 68th Street, transportation officials say everyone will get through more quickly if drivers in the left lane merge right as the lane ends.

"I feel like that`s what I lot of jerks do when they`re driving normally. They wait until the last minute before they merge over," Kendra Gordon said.

Drivers are meeting the zipper merge this week as crews get ready for the next part of the Zoo Interchange construction project. In theory, traffic will move more smoothly if drivers use all three lanes until the merge, and then zipper in one at a time.

"I`m thinking that they should have you start merging as soon as you can because the people in the lane that`s closing are gonna try to get in front and it`s gonna slow down everybody else," Stephen Hoyer said.

DOT officials say this resistance to the zipper concept might just be a byproduct of drivers in Wisconsin being too kind.

"Wisconsin drivers and people in general are very polite. We get in line early. We make sure everybody sort of follows the rules," Michael Pyritz with the DOT said.

A FOX6 News crew drove through the zipper merge shortly after 5:00 p.m. Tuesday. While FOX6's vehicle stayed in the left lane until hitting the merge, drivers in front did not. Officials say that's inefficient, but many drivers say it's the right thing to do.

The zipper merge is scheduled to be in place until late 2015.

"We all have to be patient, I guess," Gordon said.

DOT officials say they're aware of some long delays that occurred Monday night, but they believe that'll be the worst, as drivers adjust to the zipper merge process. Officials are encouraging folks to seek out alternate routes.

Related links: