ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Construction on one of the busiest stretches of highway in Albuquerque started Monday, and the state has a suggestion for how drivers should handle it. However, not everyone agrees.
When a lane is about to end on the freeway, is it best to get over as soon as possible, or use the open lane to merge at the last minute? The New Mexico Department of Transportation wants to get everyone on the same page, but it could be tough.
I-40 westbound toward Coors Monday during rush hour, moved slowly. “It was hectic,” said Danielle Gamboa.
Monday was day one of major construction, as crews work on needed road repairs. “I just got used to Paseo being done, and now there’s this,” said Roy Rivada.
With lanes closed in both directions, the NMDOT wants drivers to know how to merge efficiently. “There’s two schools of thinking, you either get into that lane immediately or you wait till the last minute,” explained Melissa Dosher, spokesperson for the NMDOT.
KRQE News 13 watched rush hour Monday, and asked drivers what they do to merge. “I try to get over as soon as I see the sign,” said Rivada. “I don’t want to get hit, there’s so many accidents on 40 right there.”
“I try to get in as soon as I can,” said Gamboa. “Because it’s scary, you don’t know what can happen, you just have to keep your eyes open.”
“I don’t like to be that one guy who drives to the front of the line and then gets over,” said Marcus Atkins.
But the NMDOT said it’s OK to use the open lane until the cones cut off the lane. They’ve posted an instructional video encouraging drivers to “zipper merge,” use the open left lane, and resist the urge to merge early.
“Cars are encouraged to actually go to the lane that’s closing all the way up to where it closes, and merge into traffic,” Dosher explained.
Officials said using the zipper merge method will make things run smoothly, and avoid longer back-ups.
“When people take their turns and you know are courteous, then it goes faster,” said Dosher.
But some people aren’t confident it will work. “No, because people in Albuquerque don’t drive very great,” said Gamboa.
“I was coming to work about 5:30 a.m. with about seven cars, and those seven cars were cutting each other off,” said Rivada.
I-40 traffic was slow Monday, but merging at the cones wasn’t too difficult. Whether the zipper method will help ease traffic pains during five months of construction is still unclear.
“I mean we’ll just have to see how it works, and see how drivers do,” Atkins said. I-40 construction near Coors is expected to be completed in October.
Soon, drivers will start seeing signs along the freeway near construction, reminding them to use both lanes and take turns to merge.