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Pace Cars Will Be Out On I-70 Again This Weekend

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One of the pace cars on Interstate 70 on Aug. 13, 2011. (credit: CBS)

One of the pace cars on Interstate 70 on Aug. 13, 2011. (credit: CBS)

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (AP) – Police cars will pace traffic on 27 miles of Interstate 70 in the mountains this weekend, the second test of a technique designed to even out fluctuations in traffic speed and reduce congestion and collisions.

The next trial will be Sunday on eastbound I-70 between Silverthorne and Empire Junction, including the Eisenhower Tunnel at the Continental Divide, the Colorado Department of Transportation said Wednesday.

Silverthorne Police and Colorado State Patrol vehicles will serve as pace cars, driving 45 to 55 mph in the center or left lane with their emergency lights on. They will start the trip every five to 10 minutes from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

The tactic is called “rolling speed harmonization.”

The first test was Aug. 13 on an eight-mile section of I-70 from Silverthorne to the Eisenhower Tunnel. Officials said the pace cars reduced overall traffic speed, which in turn is expected to reduce collisions.

There were no wrecks during the first test period, but CDOT spokeswoman Stacey Stegman said the department doesn’t have enough data yet to draw conclusions about collision rates.

The Aug. 13 test was on a Saturday, and eastbound I-70 traffic averaged between 1,200 and 1,500 vehicles per hour.

Sunday’s test will likely have more traffic. CDOT said between 1,800 and 2,300 vehicles an hour use that stretch of I-70 on Sundays in late September.

CDOT plans a third test by the end of the year under winter conditions.

If the results of the tests continue to be positive, CDOT could begin using the technique during high-traffic periods on some winter weekends in 2012, the department said.

CDOT currently tries to regulate traffic on that stretch of I-70 by holding eastbound vehicles at the Eisenhower Tunnel if traffic exceeds the highway’s capacity. Tony DeVito, CDOT regional transportation director, said CDOT wants to avoid that because of the inconvenience to drivers.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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