By Jason Kornfeld, Staff Writer Posted 11 years ago February 10, 2013

Speed Harmonization In Review

The Colorado Department of Transportation, the Silverthorne Police Department and the Colorado State Patrol combined forces last year to decrease travel time and increase safety along the I-70 corridor. The program, speed harmonization, had mixed results.

Mountain traffic has steadily increased at roughly three percent a year in recent decade, and has remained stagnant. This has become more noticeable, as weekend commute times are consistently congested. In response, CDOT and police officers implemented pacing initiatives, hoping to smooth traffic flow during times of gridlock while decreasing accidents.

CDOT Public Relations Manager Bob Wilson said that the results were mixed, and the effort was not enough to sustain speed harmonization.

“There was nothing definitive to the point where we said, by implementing this every weekend, we can improve traffic flow,” Wilson said. “We had periods where traffic flow seemed to move better, but then we had other times where the results were iffy at best.”

Wilson said there were periods when traffic was flowing, but it was difficult to discern whether it was progressing more smoothly as a result of the pacing. On a positive note, when the pacing was continuous, CDOT discovered the traffic tended to not bottleneck, as opposed to when pacing was removed periodically.

Silverthorne Police Chief Mark Hanschmidt said another problem was resources.

“It was labor intensive and used up a lot of our resources. You’ve got guys who are coming in on their days off and they’re working an extra 10-hour shift,” Hanschmidt said. “It takes its toll. Also, it’s expensive and CDOT spent quite a bit of money on that.”

Despite costing roughly $12,000 for a weekend, Hanschmidt said speed harmonization still remains a useful tool.

“One thing we noticed right away was that it decreased accidents,” Hanschmidt said. “When you’ve got all these different personalities out there driving, being proactive with speed enforcement is huge.”

Ultimately, the varied outcome and the public outcry led to the program’s demise.

Nevertheless, CDOT has now started new initiatives to decrease traffic problems. In an attempt to appease complaints, it has created a metering system similar to those used for on ramps. Instead of periodically closing the Eisenhower Tunnel, and traffic coming to a complete stop for 20 minutes, two cars at a time are allowed through the tunnel heading eastbound.

Further, CDOT officials have started a $100 million highway expansion project at the Twin Tunnels in Idaho Springs ( This intends to combat the “Black Hole Effect,” where drivers tend to slow as they enter dark spaces, Wilson said. Currently, what is two lanes going eastbound from Idaho Springs into the Twin Tunnels will become three through Floyd Hill – giving I-70 a third lane all the way to Denver. During construction there will be a frontage road serving as a detour. There are plans to expand the westbound side but, at the moment, funding is the main obstacle.

Until this project is finished sometime around November, and CDOT is able to create a pacing program that is efficient, the best way to travel is to do so in an educated fashion.

“Educating motorists on the best time to travel through the I-70 corridor is huge,” Hanschmidt said. “If you get up a little earlier or go up a little later, then the major flow of traffic will have started to dissipate.

“For this very reason a lot of people come up on Friday night and stay until Sunday night. The smart ones leave early Monday morning and they fly right through.”

Wilson recommends checking CDOT’s website or downloading the smart phone app to see current travel conditions (

If you have any thoughts or suggestions, comment below as CDOT will check your responses.

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About The Author

Jason Kornfeld

Staff Writer

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