08/12/2011 11:19 am ET Updated Oct 18, 2011

Officials: 'Speed Harmonization' Helps Ease I-70 Ski Traffic, Will Be Implemented This Winter (UPDATE)

The only thing worse than traffic on I-70 is ski traffic on I-70. While previous years have seen studies on light-rail to the mountains and "zipper lanes," authorities are touting a new plan to ease congestion: "speed harmonization."


After two tests earlier this year resulted in smoother traffic flow through the Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels, Colorado transportation officials have decided to use pace cars to minimize congestion on Interstate 70 this winter, reports the Denver Post.


Counter to what it sounds, this is not some new-age technique involving crystals and metaphysical transcendence. Speed harmonization was developed in 1970s Germany, and involves decreasing the amount of speed variation between cars.

On August 13, according to the Denver Post, every ten minutes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., a squad car entered I-70 just east of Silverthorne and merged to take over the center lane. It proceeded to drive at 55 miles per hour, pacing all cars behind it, until exiting at the tunnel.

Ideally, speed harmonization would create even flow through the tunnel, eliminating the need to stop traffic at the entrance during peak hours. CBS4 presents the plan as a "rolling road block."

"As traffic volumes increase, the differentials in speed among vehicles increase the possibility of traffic accidents and accidents contribute to the congestion problem," said CDOT Regional Transportation Director Tony DeVito to GOi70. Maintaining constant speed between cars will hopefully cut back on this "vicious circle."

9News reports the preliminary results from the early August test are promising. Authorities have planned another trial for Sept. 25 over a 27 mile stretch of I-70 east of Silverthorn. CDOT would also like to gauge the technique's effectiveness at the end of the year when roads are snow-covered.

flickr photo via vxla