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CDOT Has New Plan To Smooth I-70 Traffic

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The Eisenhower Tunnel (credit: CBS)

The Eisenhower Tunnel (credit: CBS)

VAIL, Colo. (AP) – The Colorado Department of Transportation has a new plan to smooth traffic on Interstate 70, where the Eisenhower Tunnel often clogs on ski weekends.

The Vail Daily reported Friday that CDOT has will try a different tactic to smooth eastbound traffic on I-70 between Silverthorne and the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels. That’s where traffic clogs worst on Sunday afternoon and evenings ad skiers head back to Denver and the airport.

Near the tunnel, eastbound traffic is funneled from three lanes to just two. At about that spot, the transportation department is working on a system that on heavy-traffic days will move traffic into four lanes. Those lanes will use the highway’s existing shoulders, so no widening work will be needed.

CDOT spokeswoman Stacy Stegman said the new system could replace “metering” at the tunnels. That system stopped traffic on the west side of the tunnels but led to long delays.

“For every minute you delay traffic, it can take between four and eight minutes to get it moving again,” Stegman said. “That means a 20-minute delay can turn into 90 minutes.”

The new system will get its first test next month, just as holiday traffic starts to really build, Stegman said. That first test will use a combination of human flaggers and traffic lights.

Over this holiday weekend, the state will start its winter-season “courtesy patrols,” in which tow trucks will be available to get broken-down motorists to safety.

And traffic could be pretty heavy this weekend. Wave Dreher, the spokeswoman for AAA Colorado, said that group expected holiday travel this year to be at about the levels it reached last year. According to AAA, nearly 650,000 state residents will travel at least 50 miles by car over Thanksgiving. Higher gas prices, he said, were not changing how people holiday.

“People are still traveling by car – the pull of friends and family is strong,” Dreher said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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