BOSTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Usually, construction causes traffic jams during the morning and afternoon commutes.
Not so on I-96 eastbound in Ionia County.
Tuesday, it took about an hour to travel just a few miles in the middle part of the day.
I knew that concrete repairs were scheduled for I-96 between the Kent/Ionia county line and the Saranac Rest Area, but I expected work to be done at night.
The first part of the months-long project involves joint replacement and entire chunks of concrete replacement between the county line and exit 59 Nash Highway. I found the left lane closed in the middle of the day, and that is when the traffic jams can be the worst.
Eastbound traffic was stop-and-go starting around mile 50, still in Kent County.
In these lane closure situations, I have observed a change in driver behavior: people are merging much earlier than they used to. Until recently, many drivers would get over when they saw signs warning of a lane closure ahead. Those are the “mergers.” Many others would stay in their lane until the last minute and then squeeze in. Thoses are the “surgers.”
Tuesday, I watched in my rear view mirror as the driver behind me moved over to block a surger. (See picture.) Not that there were a lot of surgers. The traffic jam I experienced began long before the barrels actually closed the left lane.
I am seeing the same driver behavior on eastbound I-196 between Grandville and the lane closure at Market Avenue in Grand Rapids. Drivers are moving over as soon as they see the warning signs as far as two miles before the lane actually closes.
Surgers believe that their behavior does not cause backups. Considering that backups are occurring even with less surging behavior, I’m coming to believe they’re right: the traffic jams would happen anyway.