SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (CBS4) – Pace cars were driving along Interstate 70 Sunday. The goal of “speed harmonization” is to stop any major traffic jams from ski traffic heading home from the mountains.
Patrol cars kept eastbound traffic rolling at about 50 miles per hour from Silverthorne to Floyd Hill. Friday was a trial run for ski traffic.
Officers did several test runs of the program in the summer. Sunday acted as a trial run so they could work out any issues, but some of the people who were caught in the speed groupings weren’t too thrilled.
“It seems counterintuitive to be going slower to go faster,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said.
With a multi-billion dollar problem and no money to fix the traffic jams that can turn I-70 into a parking lot, CDOT has found a fix that’s only costing about $5,000 for the winter.
“We call it rolling speed harmonization,” Wilson said.
It starts with Silverthorne police making sure traffic slows to about 55 miles per hour on the way up to the tunnel.
“By evening out all the traffic at a more steady speed we’re able to move more vehicles through the corridor in a more safe fashion,” Wilson said.
“It seemed to bunch everyone together to the point there was a lot of braking, a lot of people having to get on their brakes,” Driver Todd Drake said. “I tried to back off and leave room but it was difficult because the speed seemed to be below the actual speed limit.”
CDOT says that the study showed that the pacing actually slows down times by a minute or two but when you take into account that there’s no traffic, they say that getting through the high country corridor is actually faster.
“The good thing is, it kept people from changing lanes a lot and where you see the variations in speed,” Drake said.
The program will get going every Sunday after the first of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s set in stone.
“As we do this program every Sunday, we’re going to be constantly re-evaluating and tweaking it as need be,” Wilson said.
Twenty-four officers and deputies are working overtime and CDOT is picking up the tab. The speed zone was in operation for about 6 hours on Sunday. Officials say it was a success.