Smart signs help improve safety on U.S. 36

July 15, 2016                  

Public Testing Begins Next Week

ADAMS/BROOMFIELD/BOULDER COUNTIES—The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) begins field testing its Smart Signs system on U.S. 36 on Monday, July 18.

Located between Federal Boulevard in Westminster to Table Mesa Drive in Boulder, the overhead signs, which have been tested behind the scenes for the last year, will help drivers anticipate and prepare for congestion and lane closures caused by accidents, disabled vehicles and other obstacles.

The testing period begins at 9 a.m. Monday, and continues through 9 a.m. Friday, July 22. During this period, the traveling public will be provided with real-time incident information and CDOT will be observing driver behavior when the signs are activated. CDOT also will be making sure the equipment is working properly and displaying correct information.

U.S. 36 is one of two corridors in Colorado to have this system. The Smart Signs also will be implemented on southbound Interstate 25 from 120th Avenue to U.S. 36, as part of the North I-25 Express Lanes.

“For years, CDOT has studied similar traffic management systems in other states. We took the best practices of those states and are applying those to our highways,” said CDOT Transportation Systems Management and Operations Director Ryan Rice. “This is the first time a system like this has been installed in the state and we anticipate it’ll improve safety on the corridor by allowing drivers to be better prepared for problems ahead.”

In other states where similar traffic management systems have been employed, crashes
have been reduced by an average of 30 percent and the road capacity has increased approximately 22 percent.

The Smart Signs system uses input from cameras and vehicle detectors to collect and process information about current traffic conditions, 24 hours a day. Information is then posted on the overhead digital signs, displaying whether a lane is open or closed, or provide advisory speed limits to avoid the need for sudden braking that can lead to secondary accidents.

Advisory speed limits will be used to incrementally slow drivers as they approach congestion. The lowest advisory speed will be 35 mph, even if traffic is moving slower. Just like a static speed limit sign, adverse traffic conditions may require slower speeds than the posted limit.

If a lane is closed, the status signs will direct drivers to merge into an open lane in advance of the closure.

Full-time activation of the U.S. 36 Smart Signs system is expected to begin within the next several months.

To view videos of similar systems in other states, please see:

CDOT’s Smart Signs system is a component of the multi-modal U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project. In addition to two free general purpose lanes in each direction, it includes Express Lanes that accommodate High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV), Bus Rapid Transit (BRT- implemented January 2016), and tolled vehicles. The project also replaced several bridges, built a bikeway, added BRT improvements, and installed Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for tolling, transit and traveler information, and incident management. Phase 1, from Federal Boulevard to 88th Street in Louisville/Superior, opened in July 2015. Phase 2, from 88th Street to Table Mesa Drive in Boulder, opened in March 2016.

For more project information, please call 303-944-2008 or go to



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