Star Advertiser: New and improved ZipMobile set to launch on Zipper Lane duties next month

(Source: Star Advertiser)

October 11, 2018

By: Dan Nakaso

Gov. David Ige got behind the wheel of a brand new bright- yellow $1.95 million ZipMobile on Wednesday and immediately said he wanted to drive it.

But the custom-made ZipMobile, which arrived Sept. 29 from Rio Vista, Calif., won’t be put into action until sometime in November, after undergoing nighttime testing.

Although it carries the logo “Road Zipper” for now, the new cleaner-burning diesel machine will take over as the state Department of Transportation’s primary “ZipMobile” when it begins opening and closing the H-1 Freeway’s 11.3-mile Zipper Lane next month.

One of the DOT’s original 20-year-old ZipMobiles will be decommissioned and harvested for replacement parts for its twin ZipMobile, which will continue as the backup.

The new ZipMobile, manufactured by California-based Lindsay Transportation Solutions, will have its own backup parts stored on Oahu.

It carries a one-year warranty on all parts and Lindsay technicians are on Oahu during the break-in period and will be available as needed, DOT officials said.

DOT officials are hoping to avoid a repeat of the two-day islandwide “carmaggedon” ordeal that occurred in 2015 when the primary ZipMobile broke down in the middle of the H-1 Freeway, leaving two westbound traffic lanes closed until a mainland technician flew in and got it running again.

Back in 2015, the software that operated the two ZipMobiles was proprietary, said DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara.

“We weren’t going to make that mistake again,” Sakahara said Wednesday as Ige toured the new machine. “We don’t have to wait for that person to fly in anymore.”

“Zip U There” mechanics, who maintain the ZipMobiles, have been trained about the latest technology and software for the new machine at the factory. And technicians in California can also troubleshoot software problems occurring on Oahu in real time, Sakahara said.

If the new ZipMobile should malfunction in mid-zip, Sakahara said it’s designed to be towed while finishing zipping — or unzipping — the zipper lanes.

The new ZipMobile is outfitted with what Ige called a “state-of-the-art” diesel engine that is more environmentally friendly than that of its 20-year-old cousins.

The new machine produces 96 percent fewer pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions, DOT officials said.

“It’s cleaner and better for the environment,” Ige said.

State Department of Health officials worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to obtain a grant under the federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act that will reduce the cost of the new ZipMobile by $390,000 — down to $1,563,000.

The new ZipMobile is also 6 feet wider, which means it can push the zipper barriers tighter to the median and leave a safety shoulder for drivers that’s 6 feet wide in some spots of the H-1, Ige said.

The Zipper Lane opened in 1998 along the state’s busiest traffic corridor and begins at Managers Drive Overpass near Waikele and feeds into the Nimitz Highway express lane.

The Zipper Lane expanded to two lanes in 2016.

NEW ZIPMOBILE BY THE NUMBERS

>> $1.954 million: Original cost. With an EPA grant of $390,000 the cost will fall to $1.563 million.

>> 15: Speed in miles per hour that the ZipMobile can travel, but it goes much slower while opening and closing the Zipper Lane.

>> 11.3: Miles of Zipper Lane, which runs from Managers Drive Overpass near Waikele and into the Nimitz Highway express lane.

>> Four: Minimum number of people required to perform daily Zipper Lane operations, including one person in the front driver’s seat and another in the rear driver’s seat. An escort truck with at least two people checks for debris that could hamper Zipper Lane operations. The truck also escorts the ZipMobile back to the Zip Barn located on the H-1 median.

>> 2.1: Number of dollars — in millions — spent to operate the Zipper Lane each year.

Source: State Department of Transportation

Via: Star Advertiser

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