Evaluation of the Late Merge Work Zone Traffic Control Strategy

Report No: 05-R6

Published in 2004

About the report:

Several alternative lane merge strategies have been proposed in recent years to process vehicles through work zone lane closures more safely and efficiently. Among these is the late merge. With the late merge, drivers are instructed to use all lanes to the merge point and then take turns proceeding through the work zone. Its efficiency has been tested on only a limited basis. The purpose of this project was to determine when, if at all, deployment of the late merge was beneficial. The late merge concept was evaluated by comparing it to the traditional merge using computer simulations and field evaluations. Computer simulations included analysis of 2-to-1, 3-to-1, and 3-to-2 lane closure configurations to determine its impact on throughput and the impact of factors such as free flow speed, demand volume, and percentage of heavy vehicles. Field tests were limited to 2-to-1 lane closures, as recommended by state transportation officials, and examined the impact of treatment type on vehicle throughput, percentage of vehicles in the closed lane, and time in queue. Results of the computer simulations showed the late merge produced a statistically significant increase in throughput volume for only the 3-to-1-lane closure configuration and was beneficial across all factors for this type of closure. For the 2-to-1 and 3-to-2 lane closure configurations, the late merge increased throughput when the percentage of heavy vehicles was large. Field tests showed similar trends with regard to throughput. Although throughput increased, the increase was not statistically significant because of the limited number of heavy vehicles at the site. More drivers were in the closed lane, indicating a response to the late merge signs. Time in queue was also reduced, although the reductions were not statistically significant. The authors conclude that the late merge should be considered for 3-to-1 lane closure configurations but not until a sound methodology for deployment has been developed and tested in the field. For the 2-to-1 and 3-to-2 configurations, the late merge should be implemented only when the percentage of heavy vehicles is at least 20 percent.

Disclaimer Statement:The contents of this report reflect the views of the author(s), who is responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official views or policies of the Virginia Department of Transportation, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, or the Federal Highway Administration. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation. Any inclusion of manufacturer names, trade names, or trademarks is for identification purposes only and is not to be considered an endorsement.


Last updated: November 30, 2023

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