The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to implement a pacing program, intended to keep traffic moving smoothly, on eastbound Interstate 70 on peak Sundays next year, officials announced Tuesday.
Though CDOT initially will run the program 27 miles from Silverthorne to Empire Junction, there now is talk of pacing all the way to Floyd Hill, following tests that indicate the process keeps traffic moving significantly faster through the corridor.
In a Sept. 25 test of the program — also known as rolling speed harmonization — traffic slowed from 60 mph down to approximately 30 mph when the test ended near Empire Junction.
“It was a very interesting observation,” CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said. “Once (the police vehicles controlling speeds) pulled off the roadway, traffic started varying, and then it started backing up once again. There has been discussion of running it as far east as Floyd Hill ... (to where) it becomes a three-lane highway.”
The program is set to begin early next year.
CDOT and local law enforcement agencies will pace traffic primarily on Sundays from 1 p.m. until about 5 or 6 p.m. as needed.
There may be additional pacing on holidays, during spring break weeks and in July and August.
During rolling speed harmonization, law enforcement vehicles pull in front of traffic with emergency lights activated and lead cars at a steady speed through a specific stretch of highway.
CDOT ran a shorter test of the program Aug. 13 and a full 27-mile trial run Sept. 25.
“All of the data we’re seeing from the two test runs indicates that rolling speed harmonization can be used as another tool for maximizing capacity, improving safety and lowering the number of accidents, which are a big contributor to traffic congestion,” CDOT Region 1 Director Tony Devito said in Tuesday’s release. “It’s the congestion that leads to tunnel metering, something we would like to reduce since it’s an inconvenience for I-70 travelers.”
In the most recent of the two pacing tests, speeds remained right at or 5 mph below posted speed limits up to, through and east of the Eisenhower Tunnel, even as vehicle counts reached more than 2,200 cars per hour in the later part of the day.
On peak days in the winter, counts can get up to 3,000 cars through the tunnel per hour, with the added complication of icy, snow-packed roads and poor visibility.
Police departments from all four Summit County towns and the sheriff’s office will assist with pacing next year.
CDOT covers all costs for the officers’ time and the use of patrol vehicles.