SILVERTHORNE, Colo. (CBS4) – Officials studying the use of pace cars on Interstate 70 in the high country to ease congestion now have some real test data to work with.
Saturday was the first test day for a process called “rolling speed harmonization,” where a police car pulls out in front of traffic to slow the vehicles down by 5 to 10 mph. The pace cars during Saturday’s tests were Colorado State Patrol cruisers. The cruisers had their lights flashing and were moving at 45 to 55 mph along an 8-mile stretch of I-70 from Silverthorne to the Eisenhower Tunnel.
Officials say getting all the traffic to move at the same speed behind the pace cars will hopefully help eliminate the lengthy traffic delays that occur during the weekends in the summer and consistently during the ski season.
“When you get those variables in speed, that can create a lot of congestion and a high potential for accidents,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said.
Part of Saturday’s testing involved a traffic engineer near the highway pointing a laser at cars in the rolling roadblocks to measure the consistency in speed.
“I’m taking the reading for the first car and the last car in the platoon,” he said, referring to the cars being escorted by the pace cars.
Many drivers CBS4 spoked to on Saturday weren’t so pleased with the rolling roadblock concept.
“I just don’t think it’s a good idea when we already have congestion problems,” one driver said. “There’s got to be a better solution that rolling roadblocks.”
“The only solution is to get more lanes — at some point they need to visit that,” another driver said.
The pace method could take the place of a metering technique that has been used previously, where CDOT stops vehicles from entering the Eisenhower Tunnel and allows traffic to clear before releasing more vehicles.
“Anything we can do to minimize that frustration is worth looking at,” Wilson said.
“I think people get the idea of what we’re trying to accomplish,” trooper Markus Winter told CBS4.
CDOT officials say they will conduct a few more tests in heavier traffic and wetter weather.
If the experiments ultimately are deemed successful there could be more pacing and less metering along I-70 as early as January.
It’s expected the pacing would take place on the stetch of interstate from Silverthorne to Empire in the eastbound lanes.