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Copper Mountain Power Outage Puts Wrinkle In Pace Car Program

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Traffic on I-70 (credit: CBS)

Traffic on I-70 (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation planned to run pace cars on Interstate 70 all the way from Silverthorne to Floyd Hill on Sunday, but that didn’t happen after they ran into an unexpected problem.

A power outage at Copper Mountain set off a chain of events that led to Sunday’s traffic jams. When Copper was forced to shut down its lifts, hundreds of people decided to head home and paraded towards Denver. With so many cars leaving around noon, it was too much for the new pace car program to handle.

“I was expecting traffic, but touch and go, 20 to 30 miles per hour; normal caution from a busy weekend, but it was like a parking lot,” skier Ryan Redfern said.

CDOT’s speed harmonization was pushed back from Silverthorne to the Eisenhower Tunnel. The uphill approach was all slow going.

“It was kind of frustrating because the roads were clear. There was a lot of traffic with a lot of cars with people coming down from a great weekend, but it was frustrating to say the least because there wasn’t any snow on the ground,” Redfern said.

That’s not what CDOT wants to hear. It was a real test of their speed harmonization program. They’ve been testing it since the summer. A patrol car leads traffic at a moderate pace, keeping everyone moving. But once drivers got through the tunnel, at least some said they noticed a difference.

On Facebook one viewer said, “It kept everyone moving. There was no jam up at the Winter Park ramp either. They had a cop letting a car on every 20 seconds or so. Very impressed with that.”

“Shoot, I’d like them to try this during rush hour on I-25, I-225 and I-76 … especially I-76 north to I-25 during p.m. rush hour,” another viewer said on Facebook.

Another driver liked the results so much he wanted to see CDOT implement it in the metro area.

CDOT sent out a tweet Sunday asking for feedback.

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