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I-74 traffic

Illinois-bound traffic on Interestate 74 backs up to Lincoln Road because of construction on the I-74 bridge.

We're either a slow people or a stubborn people.

Or can it be that Quad-Citians are so polite as to shoot ourselves in the foot?

Maybe we're just not convinced.

In the five years since the Summer of Hell I-74 bridge construction season of 2011, we still haven't learned to properly merge. And I totally get it.

I'm one of the offenders, choosing etiquette over efficiency every time. I don't want to get the stink eye from others as I tool past them in the open lane. Nobody wants to be "that guy."

But at least half of us need to get around to being OK with being "that guy."

Even after the Illinois DOT literally spelled it out for us on interstate signs ("Use Both Lanes" and "Take Turns at Merge"), we insist on dropping into a single-file line at the very hint of a merger.

I live in Moline, just a few blocks from Interstate 74. On my way home Tuesday, as I crossed over I-74 on Avenue of the Cities, I couldn't believe my eyes. Vehicles were in a single-file line south of Avenue of the Cities. The line looked like it could have stretched all the way to the airport.

And the actual point of merger was way down near 7th Avenue, roughly 20 city blocks away.

Our instructions are simple: Be a tooth in the zipper approach to merging by filling both lanes equally. When one lane narrows, take turns merging. And just as importantly, do not use your vehicle to block others from using both lanes. That's naughty.

This isn't about speed. Zipper merging does not necessarily get you through a construction zone faster. But DOT engineers estimate the process reduces backups by an average of 40 percent. It clears clusters at intersections, such as Avenue of the Cities and prevents clogs at on- and off-ramps.

Now is the time to make the adjustment. We're in good humor now. It's spring. When it gets hot (and it will be), things could get disagreeable.

Filling in the short lane does not make you a cutter. We can do this. We can drive astride without the sneers or honks or lane hogging.

Embrace the zipper, and traffic will fly.

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Contact Barb Ickes at 563-383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.

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