In-pavement mountain road LED lighting benefits motorists

On I-70 at Hidden Valley and Hwy 93 from 64th Ave to Hwy 72

By Stacia Sellers

  Travelers making their way along CO Highway 93 between 64th Avenue and CO Highway 72 will find they are guided by a section of illuminated roadway. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is using in-pavement LED lighting to enhance nighttime driving for travelers. 

“This particular location of Hwy 93 was chosen due to it being a major commuting route and the dark, unlighted nature of the roadway,” said Angie Drumm, CDOT Region 1 Deputy Director of Traffic Systems Management and Operations. “In-pavement LED lighting has shown itself to be a viable device for dramatically improving lane delineation to the travelling public, especially in adverse weather.”

A polycarbonate plastic “puck” houses the small energy efficient LEDs. The LEDs automatically illuminate at dusk. The puck is set into the roadway just below the surface of the pavement and is protected by a steel ring, which allows traffic and heavy equipment, such as snowplows, to drive right over the device.

CDOT, in the Denver metro area, is experimenting with these devices on Interstate 70 where they are proving to be effective and durable, and therefore have a high potential for future applications in select locations.

The estimated reduction in crashes for the initial installation on the lane lines and shoulders of eastbound I-70 from the Hidden Valley exit to the Beaver Brook exit is approximately 35% for “property damage only” crashes and 50% for injury crashes.

Since the installation costs of the devices ranges between $15,000 and $25,000 per linear mile, plus future maintenance costs, the installation of devices must be strategically and selectively planned and funded.

“We have conducted an analysis of where these devices might be effective and how much the initial installations could cost,” said Drumm. “Candidate locations from each region within CDOT will be selected and ranked using a combination of the site selection criteria and a benefit cost analysis. Once the list of qualified locations has been established, a three-year plan for total cost and maintenance will be developed.”

The following criteria will be used to determine whether or not in-pavement LEDs are a proper treatment for a particular location:

Sections of roadway to be considered typically:

  • Have a history of lane departure crash patterns
  • Are dark and unlit with curves
  • Are on mountainous terrain where retention of pavement marking is historically difficult

Other locations that are good candidates include:

  • Intersections with unique traffic patterns or movements (roundabouts, triple-left turns, triple-right turns, etc.)
  • Mid-block crosswalks
  • Unprotected chain stations

CDOT maintenance crews will closely monitor the lighting for the next few months. Drumm added that CDOT officials are optimistic that the enhancement to this section of highway will prove beneficial to the traveling public.

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