CDOT activated “smart signs” on U.S. 36, and it won’t stop there

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photo

New signs on U.S. 36 are displaying speed limits, traffic warnings and information about hazards on the road from Denver to Boulder.

A Washington State DOT illustration of a "smart sign" system." (WSDOT)

A Washington State DOT illustration of a "smart sign" system." (WSDOT)

CDOT originally planned to turn the signs on in several months, but instead it launched earlier after a successful test last month.

How does it work?

Cameras and other sensors constantly monitor traffic conditions. This information is then relayed to overhead digital signs, including small signs over individual lanes and large signs for the entire highway.

The signs can warn drivers to merge, tell them whether a lane is open and suggest speed limits for individual lanes. The changeable speed limits will allow CDOT to slow drivers down as they approach traffic jams.

CDOT claims similar systems in other states have reduced crashes by 30 percent and significantly increased road capacity. The U.S. 36 system cost about $5 million, the Denver Post reported.

Where’s it going next?

Smart signs will be installed on Interstate 25 southbound from 120th Avenue to U.S. 36.

The idea behind the signs – using data to improve the flow of traffic – also is a central theme of CDOT’s broader plans.

They even have a sweet, secret-sounding program called RoadX – so maybe we should expect to see more technology like this coming to our roads soon.