At US-101 and the WA-8 Underpass, It’s Called a “Zipper Merge,” and We’ve Been Doing it Wrong

Most weekday mornings traffic begins to stack up where southbound US-101 merges from two lanes, to one, under WA-8. Drivers line up in the left hand lane and sometimes traffic slows almost all the way back to the onramp at Steamboat Island Road. As traffic slows, drivers entering US-101 at Steamboat Island Road scramble to join the line forming in the left lane. It sometimes creates a dangerous situation. And those drivers who cannot move left, or choose to remain in the right lane, feel like they are cheating, cutting into the line closer to the actual point the two lanes merge into one.

Transportation engineers call it a “zipper merge.” It is not taught in driver’s education. And the Washington Department of Transportation doesn’t normally provide the correct signage instructing drivers how it’s supposed to work. And it turns out we’ve been doing it wrong, all along.

At normal highway speeds, when traffic is moving smoothly through the WA-8 underpass, it’s correct for drivers to move to the left lane early, when the sign indicates there is a merge ahead.

But, when traffic begins to stack up and slow down, the correct way to use a zipper merge is for drivers to fill in both lanes. If the roadway was signed correctly, long before the right lane merges into the left, there would be a sign reading, “Use both lanes to merge point.”

Then, actually at the point the right lane merges into the right, drivers should file through the underpass one at a time. First a car from the left lane, then a car from the right, then the left, and so forth.

Cars from each lane file together, at the merge point, just like the teeth of a zipper.

If the roadway was signed correctly, there would be a sign at the merge reading, “Take turns merge here.”

Or perhaps a single sign, like the one pictured at the bottom of this article, would suffice to notify drivers that, when there is congestion, they should use both lanes and then take turns at the merge.

When both lanes are used correctly, a zipper merge could reduce by 50% the length of the backup along US-101. At the height of out little morning rush hour, drivers using the Steamboat Island Road onramp would easily be able to get into either the right or left lane. And everyone would get under WA-8 and on their way, just as quickly as before.

In traffic engineering, the late merge or zipper method is a convention for merging traffic into a reduced number of lanes. Drivers in merging lanes are expected to use both lanes to advance to the lane reduction point and merge at that location, alternating turns.
Wikipedia

In countries such as Germany, the zipper merge is taught to drivers and it’s normal. But here in the U.S., we prefer to queue up as soon as we see there’s a merge ahead. Especially as traffic begins to move more slowly. On US-101 we think of the drivers that remain in the right lane as “cheaters” who are “cutting in line” by not moving to the left. But it turns out, we’ve been wrong. It’s not rude to use both lanes; that’s the way a zipper merge is supposed to work, when traffic congestion is higher. But what would it take to develop a critical mass of local drivers, who use this route most days, to begin to change how we use both lanes along US-101?

Talk to your neighbors who regularly travel this route. Share this article. The Washington Department of Transportation usually only signs for a zipper merge in construction zones. They’ve done it, up in Seattle. But we can create a safer situation right here, if our own zipper merge were correctly signed. Contact WSDOT to ask for the “Use both lanes to merge point’ and “Take turns merge here” signs to be installed along US-101. The WSDOT representative is Angel Hubbard at (360) 705-7281.

Update (1/11/2017): Washington DOT replied to an email sent to them, about this issue.

WSDOT considered this very issue a while back. After some investigation, we elected not to implement any zipper signing at this particular location for two main reasons:

1. Our literature search and past WSDOT experience show that encouraging drivers to zipper merge can be beneficial in slow-moving traffic conditions, and is most often employed in temporary construction situations. This location is a high-speed corridor (60 mph) that experiences congestion for only about 30 minutes a day, during the a.m. commute.

2. At the US 101 merge onto SR 8, a tight single-lane curve immediately follows after the two US 101 lanes drop to one. The tight merge operates at full capacity during the morning rush, and traffic engineers did not believe a zipper merge would notably increase through-put or travel times. This was confirmed with visual field verifications, and from traffic modeling.

It’s clear the zipper merge is useful when there’s congestion, and not at normal highway speed. That does present a challenge to clearly signing the road. However, we don’t expect use of both lanes, as a zipper merge, to decrease travel times. Instead, we want to reduce the numbers of unsafe merges into the left lane, when congestion causes traffic to back up in that lane nearly to Steamboat Island Road. Also, we have seen instances when cars drive down the middle of US-101, straddling the center line, specifically to prevent others from using the right lane.

What steps can be taken to legitimize use of the right lane, when there is congestion at this merge?

Update (1/20/2017): The only available solution may be an educational campaign.

A dialog with Representative MacEwen’s office and WSDOT representatives has disclosed how complicated merely signing this location may actually be. Apparently, except for use in a construction zone, standards for signing a zipper merge don’t exist along US highways. The Washington State Patrol, too, has expressed concerns they wouldn’t be able to accurately assign fault to accidents occurring where it wasn’t clear, at the merge point, which lane was ending.

In the short term, we may be left with the only remedy being an educational campaign. But are there enough drivers coming from the Steamboat Peninsula to have an impact on the behavior of drivers coming from further up US-101? Time will tell.

McLane Creek a Little Bit of Pacific Northwest Paradise

Photo by Bob and Barb, Washington State Trails Association.

Part of the pleasure of living here is the easy access to Capitol State Forest. One piece of the State Forest is less than 6 miles from the Steamboat Island Road exit. If you go to Mud Bay and then go up the hill toward Olympia; take a right at the top of the hill. Follow Delphi Road SW for 3.2 miles. You will then find on the right side, McLane Creek and Forest Trails. Click here to map your own directions.

The park is run by the Department of Natural Resources and closes at dusk. There are picnic shelters and restrooms and wonderful viewpoints. There are three trails, two of which circumnavigate a large pond and a small lake.

Click image for a downloadable trail map.

Numerous birds, amphibians, and beavers live at the water. Salmon swim home in the fall. The trails are short and protected from the rain by trees. You should always dress for the weather and stay out of the woods when it is windy. Enjoy this little bit of Pacific Northwest paradise.

A state Discovery pass is needed to park at McLane Creek. You can buy a pass online or at 22 locations in Thurston County. Check it out at discoverpass.wa.gov.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Caroling Returns to Prosperity Grange

Come join your neighbors this Saturday, December 17, at the Prosperity Grange for what’s rapidly becoming a cherished annual event: Old-Fashioned Christmas Caroling. Hosted by Restoration Hope. Complementary hot chocolate, cider, coffee, chili, and Christmas cookies will be available. Photos with Santa and his sleigh!

This is a free event, but any donations will go to Griffin School’s ‘Friendship Fund’ to help kids in need, and to St. Christopher’s Community Church for them to distribute to Steamboat families in need and to their Helping Hands Community Garden.

Old-Fashioned Christmas Caroling
3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Saturday, December 17
Prosperity Grange
3701 Steamboat Loop NW, Olympia

You Can Be a Self-Published Author

Click the image for a downloadable version

In an average year, there are more than 225 overcast days in Olympia. And we're coming into the darkest, rainiest part of the year. What's a body to do? Winter is a great time to write that book you've always wanted. In the past, getting published was as difficult - or more so - than writing the text in the first place. Nowadays, with the tools available online, it is easy to publish and sell your work.

Here are some steps you can use to publish and sell your paperback, ebook, and audio book.

What accounts do I need to set up?

kdp.amazon.com Kindle Direct Publishing is your route to publish online to customers in the U.S., Canada, UK, Germany, India, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and more.

www.createspace.com CreateSpace provides easy tools to create your paperback edition.

www.acx.com ACX provides the tools to turn your book into an audio book, for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. "ACX Puts You in the Director's Chair."

Amazon will produce and sell your work, and pay you up to 70% royalties. People buy your book worldwide and the royalty is sent directly to your bank account. Amazon, CreateSpace and ACX will mail tax documents to you.

How do I publish my works?

Upload your Microsoft Word document (minimum of 24 pages for paperback) to the above sites. You select the book cover and artwork from the site or provide your own. Amazon will then publish your work in 160 countries with 13 on-line book stores.

Marketing

Amazon has several promotional programs. They will guide you through the process. These may result in increased sales. You select your book price and royalty amount given the promotion program.

Copyrights

You retain the copyright for all of your published work through Amazon.com.

Royalty Payments

Are made by direct deposit or mail. You may want to consider creating a separate bank account, for tax reporting purposes, to receive your royalty payments.

Sovereign Cellars Offers Holiday Discount on Local Wines

sovereign_cellars_2016

Dennis Gross, winemaster at Sovereign Cellars asks, “What better way to celebrate the season than with fine wines from Sovereign Cellars for your table or as a gift? All of our award winning wines are now 20% off!”

This local winery is open through December.

If you are interested in purchasing wine, simply call or email Sovereign Cellars. Or just come on over.

Happy Holidays, from our local winery, Sovereign Cellars.

Sovereign Cellars
(360) 866-7991
dwgrosswine@yahoo.com
7408 Manzanita Dr. NW, Olympia

Feline Friends Holiday Bazaar and Griffin Holiday Market, Saturday, December 3

2016ff-bazaar-flyer1

Click for a larger image.

This Saturday sees the return of two holiday events to the Griffin/Steamboat Peninsula area. One is the Feline Friends Cat Adoption Day, Santa, and Holiday Bazaar. The other is the Griffin Holiday Market. Between these two events, you’re bound to find a lot of goodies you want for this season’s gift-giving.

Santa will be available at the Feline Friends Holiday Bazaar to have photos taken with your pets (on a leash only) or children.

Stop by to visit with friends and neighbors and to shop for those extra special gifts made by local artisans and have some Hot Apple Cider. Check out their Raffle and Bake Sale with lots of cookies.

Of course, the Feline Friends Cat House will be open with cats hoping to find a loving forever home before the New Year.

Feline Friends Cat Adoption Day, Santa, and Holiday Bazaar
Saturday, December 3
10 AM to 3 PM
Griffin Fire Department Headquarters
3707 Steamboat Island Loop NW, Olympia

On the same day, the Griffin School invites you to come peruse their Griffin Holiday Market. More 30 vendors are featured, with the focus on vendors selling homemade items. There will be a great variety at this event, which is a fundraiser to support the Griffin Middle School band’s Disney trip in April.

There will also be a bake sale, silent auction, and performances by individual band students.

Griffin Holiday Market
Saturday, December 3
10 AM to 3 PM
Griffin School Gymnasium
6530 33rd Ave NW, Olympia

We hope to see you shopping locally at both these holiday events, this Saturday.

Your Purchases on Amazon Can Help Support the GNA

amazon_black_fridayjpgThe Griffin Neighborhood Association, budget-wise, runs a pretty slim operation. For example, thanks to a generous contribution by South Sound IT and the work of a volunteer webmaster, this web site operates at pretty much no cost, to the GNA. But if you’ve picked up one of the several thousand “Steamboat Neighborhood” stickers we’ve distributed, then you’ve received at least one tiny benefit from the Association. If you are a contributing member, thank you so much! And if you’re not, please click here to join us (we’ve been around for more than 26 years and, with your help, the Griffin Neighborhood Association will be here for many years to come).

But your membership in the GNA isn’t the only way you can lend some financial support to the Association. When you shop on Amazon.com, your purchases can produce a small commission to the GNA. If, that is, you start your shopping at http://steamboatisland.org/amazon Even better: click on the link http://steamboatisland.org/amazon and then bookmark it as your Amazon link, so all your shopping on Amazon will help support the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

Our families wish you and yours all the best, this Thanksgiving. And we thank you for your support of the Griffin Neighborhood Association.

The Olympia Harbor Patrol

harbor_patrolrecently joined the Port of Olympia Harbor Patrol. With three other men and one woman we became the recruit class Spring of 2016. The Harbor Patrol is directed by the Port of Olympia and it is an all-volunteer non-law enforcement organization dedicated to port security, marine search and rescue, and public safety and education. We have a 28 foot patrol boat and volunteers are trained carefully in all their functions. No previous knowledge or skill is required to serve on the Patrol. They will teach you! Volunteers must be at least eighteen years of age and pass a background check and a drug screening. 

Click here for more information about the Port of Olympia Harbor Patrol. Or click here to indicate your interest in volunteering for the Harbor Patrol. Safe boating!

by James Nugent.

Update: The Port is accepting applications for Harbor Patrol Volunteers through January 22, 2017, at 11:59 PM. Click here for more information.

Land Stewardship, The Second Phase of Conservation

Three Land Stewards

Land Stewards Mark Hendricks, Deanna Frost and Jack Sisco at Oakland Bay County Park.

Nothing is quite as sweet in the conservation world as completing that land deal to protect a special habitat for generations to come. Whether it’s finalizing a conservation easement or the outright purchase of a piece of critical shoreline, wetland or intact forest, the news is met with much celebration and sense of satisfaction – that more land is protected into the future.

But acquiring the land is just the first step in conservation. The next step is making good on the commitment to keep the land in as good condition – or better – than it was when protected.

Good habitat stewardship is key so the plants and animals that depend on that piece of natural world will continue to thrive. Good stewardship may include restoration, such as removing shoreline armoring and non-native invasive plants, or replanting an old field with native trees and shrubs to recreate a once-existing forest or wet meadow. Often, good stewardship includes visiting a site to ensure that agreed-upon easement conditions are being adhered to, checking for encroachments, or picking up trash.

Dedicated Volunteers Make it All Happen

Capitol Land Trust relies on dedicated members to ensure that our protected lands remain in good condition. As more of the protected sites we manage become open with trails and facilities for the public, it will take more work to ensure that sensitive habitats are maintained and the “human footprint” isn’t having a negative effect on them.

Land Steward at North Fork Goldsborough Creek Preserve

Land Steward Jacqueline Winter monitors North Fork Goldsborough Creek Preserve.

That is why we are always looking for volunteers willing to spend some time and energy to visit and monitor our sites as stewards or occasional workers; to ensure that we are keeping our commitment to landowners and our community to be good stewards of the lands we manage.

Can I become a Volunteer Land Steward?

Yes! We’d love your help.

At the center of Capitol Land Trust’s mission is the perpetual stewardship of the properties we have conserved – into the future. We visit even our more remote properties at least once a year to document their condition, check for dumping and trespassing, and visit with neighbors. For private properties on which CLT holds a conservation easement, we also meet with the landowner to be sure they are fulfilling the terms of the conservation easement.

Volunteer Land Stewards are key to our long-term success. They monitor sites, usually with a CLT staff member. During annual monitoring visits, Land Stewards observe, take notes and photographs, and may act as guides. After visits, they fill out monitoring report forms that help us create final monitoring reports.

Land Stewards who live near or travel to a CLT-conserved property provide a critical service throughout the year by alerting CLT to any problems. Depending on the needs of the property and the volunteer, a Land Steward also may add visits and do other activities (such as removing invasive plants or organizing a volunteer work party). We match volunteer stewards with a property that fits their interests and physical abilities and (if possible) is near where they live or travel.

Land Steward at Bayshore Preserve

Planting live stake cuttings at Bayshore Preserve. Photo by Bruce Livingston.

A Land Steward’s time commitment depends on the CLT property and the volunteer. An hour is needed prior to the monitoring visit to review the previous year’s report; part of a day is needed for the visit and an hour or so after to fill out the monitoring report form. Typically, new Land Stewards are trained during their first visit to their assigned property – or they may join a monitoring visit to another Land Steward’s property to observe the protocol.

The reward for being a Land Steward is that you get to visit unique and beautiful natural areas, farms, ranches, and timberlands – most not open to the public. You also know you are giving back to your community.

Call our office if you are interested in being a Land Steward and we will match you with a suitable property. Thank you to all of our current, and past, volunteer Land Stewards for your ongoing support towards our efforts to preserve natural and working lands in southwest Washington!

Reprinted with permission from Issue 62, Fall 2016, of the Capitol Land Trust News.

The Capitol Land Trust and Griffin Neighborhood Association created the Steamboat Conservation Partnership in order to conserve the natural areas that make the Eld and Totten Inlet watersheds so special. Click here to learn more about how you can support the efforts of this unique partnership. And click here to learn more about preserved habitat right here in the Griffin/Steamboat Peninsula area.

Steamboat Conservation Partnership Working to Preserve Our Natural Beauty

02colorfultreesFall is here and the autumn leaves are beautiful. Let’s make sure we keep the natural beauty of our area by supporting the Steamboat Conservation Partnership (SCP). The Partnership is an agreement with Capitol Land Trust where contributions are earmarked to help conserve sensitive areas within the watersheds of Eld and Totten Inlets. All contributions are tax exempt.

Capitol Land Trust uses these contributions to cover expenses in working with local property owners for the voluntary conservation of their environmentally sensitive and critical properties. Your contribution to the SCP ensures that your support is used to conserve habitat right here in the watersheds feeding the Eld and Totten inlets.

Click here to find more details about the SCP. And click here to learn more about areas already conserved in the “Steamboat Conservation Partnership Region”.

Contributions to the Steamboat Conservation Partnership may be mailed to the Capitol Land Trust with “SCP” in the check memo area.
Capitol Land TrustSteamboat Conservation Partnership logo
209 4th Ave E, Ste. 205
Olympia, WA 98501

Or click here to make a contribution online, through the Capitol Land Trust’s web site. Please remember to add, to the “Note” field on your online contribution, that the contribution is made for the SCP.

Thank you for your support of the Steamboat Conservation Partnership.