Mountain pace car program ending for season |

Mountain pace car program ending for season

Janice Kurbjun
summit daily news
Daily file photoThe rolling speed harmonization program will return to the roads today with pacing cars expected to jump ahead of traffic between 10 and 11 a.m.

Rolling speed harmonization is scheduled for the final time this winter today, estimated to start on eastbound Interstate 70 between 10:30 and 11 a.m., when eastbound vehicle counts are expected to reach approximately 1,900 vehicles per hour at the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel.

A single police car will begin pacing vehicles just east of Silverthorne to the bottom of Floyd Hill.

Law enforcement vehicles should pace a new group every five minutes, with operations continuing along the 39-mile segment through mid- to late-afternoon. The pace car aims to keep traffic at an average of 50 mph, with the goal of reducing congestion and accidents on eastbound Interstate 70 as traffic flows from the mountains.

By creating more uniform vehicle speeds, the method is supposed to improve safety, reduce traffic crashes and improve traffic flow on the corridor by delaying the onset of congestion. Officials say it’s analogous to pouring rice into a funnel. Poured gradually, more grains pass through; poured too quickly, it clogs. Travel times may not improve, but the rate of accidents caused by variable speeds should.

Police officers also will be manually metering the ramps coming from Loveland Pass and Empire Junction (U.S. 40) during the day, allowing vehicles to better merge onto the highway.

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Should eastbound volumes exceed 2,500 vehicles per hour, intervention will be terminated for the day. However, law enforcement will continue to meter the Loveland and Empire ramps, with other officers stationed at key locations for short-segment speed control and to provide assistance in case of accidents.

Drivers should not pass the lead police vehicle. Not only will they catch up to the next pod, but they will be disciplined with the appropriate enforcement action.

Officials also ask drivers not to change lanes unless it’s critical or unless a driver is passing a slow-moving vehicle, like a semi truck, to keep up with the rest of the group. Drivers should leave adequate space between their vehicle and those in front.

“This is the final day for running harmonization this winter,” said Colorado Department of Transportation regional transportation director Tony DeVito. “After Sunday’s operation, we’ll do a full-scale evaluation of all the data we’ve acquired and evaluate if the program is accomplishing the goals we’ve set for it, such as improving safety by reducing accidents, and improving traffic flow. It’s important to assess if pacing is an effective way to manage the corridor during heavy traffic periods.”

The program began on Dec. 18 as an attempt to find a low-cost solution (each implementation costs roughly $12,000) to improve weekend traffic congestion and accidents on I-70. Other states have used similar methods to make roads safer, but it is the first such long-distance segment in a mountain corridor.

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