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Colorado State Patrol began an experiment this weekend that may make one of our major highways safer and less congested. Patrol cars were lined up on the side of the highway near Silverthorne, ready to enter the flow of traffic heading east. Troopers and officers from the Silverthorne Police Department entered the center lane of eastbound I-70 near Silverthorne. With lights flashing, the patrol cars reduced speeds to 55 to 45 mph, said a spokesman for CDOT.

Patrol cars merged onto the interstate about every 10 minutes.The patrol cars led traffic on the 8.6-mile stretch from Silverthorne to the entrance of the tunnel. When the flow of traffic inside the tunnel reached 18 to 19 cars per minute — about 1,100 cars per hour — another car was deployed.

The pacing exercise is an effort to reduce the number of snarls that leave weekend commuters sitting in traffic on the east end of the Eisenhower Tunnel. If the months-long experiment is successful, it might be possible to stop metering traffic at the tunnel.

Officials chose to start the experiment in August, when the highest number of vehicles pass through the tunnel on the weekends. In addition to traffic counts, pacing is designed to accommodate weather conditions. During the winter months, when ski traffic is predicted to be heavy and inclement weather is expected, pacing can be used to make roadways safer.

Pacing traffic works well when directing vehicles after an accident, and can be successful in easing congestion and reducing accidents. If pacing is implemented this winter, it could be used on holiday weekends including Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day and during spring break, and go as far east as Floyd Hill.

A second experiment could be performed in September, when traffic will be controlled as far east as Empire. Speeds and traffic counts from Saturday will be examined, and preliminary results could be released as early as Monday.

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