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August 14, 2012
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CDOT upgrades electronic signs in Summit, around Colo.

The electronic highway signs that warn drivers of changing traffic and weather conditions in Summit County and across the state are getting an upgrade this month.

Officials say the improved signs will be sharper and easier to see.

"It's increasing their visibility," CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson said. "They're sharper, with better contrast ... so hopefully they will be more effective."

Crews replaced an older sign near Copper Mountain this week, while upgrades to the system are taking place across the state.

Older signs are being replaced with new ones featuring more recent technology, and others are being upgraded and connected to an expanded fiber optic network.

"Because the technology's changed, we can get more data onto the sign," Wilson said. "They look the same, they just function better and communicate better back to traffic operation."

Some of the existing signs are 15 years old and significantly behind current technology.

The new and upgraded signs are capable of displaying CDOT messages more quickly and cost less to install and maintain, according to a statement from the transportation department.

The $2.3 million project is set to be completed this month.

The electronic message boards allow CDOT to post changing information, generally on road and weather conditions, quickly and remotely to highways all over the state.

On the Interstate 70 mountain corridor, particularly during peak travel seasons for the highway, the variable message signs are used to inform drivers of highway congestion, road conditions and travel times.

CDOT and municipal governments have also begun to leverage the signs to push key information - such as the fire bans earlier this summer - to the public.

CDOT also began using the signs on I-70 this summer to help influence driver behavior. The signs now warn of heavy traffic that tends to build up on Sunday afternoons as mountain visitors return to Denver, recommending drivers avoid the busiest travel times.

"We try to use the signs as effectively as possible," Wilson said. "This is just another method of messaging people to let them know there's going to be increased traffic. We're trying to help the public chose their spots as far as when it's best to travel bac to the Front Range."

Transportation officials, local governments and business owners hope to supplement proposed highway projects aimed at easing congestion by encouraging drivers to leave earlier or later on Sundays.

Sign upgrades started in 2006, allowing the electronic message boards to employ wireless and fiber optic networks. Older signs are also regularly replaced when they no longer keep up with current technologies or are just ready to be retired, according to CDOT.

This month's upgrades and replacements are taking place largely off I-70 in Garfield, Grand, Huerfano, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Summit and San Miguel counties, officials stated.

"The ones on I-70 are in pretty good shape," Wilson said. "Every so often they need to be upgraded, just so they maintain standards."

CDOT also has to replace traditional road signs approximately every seven years, Wilson said.


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The Summit Daily Updated Aug 14, 2012 05:22PM Published Aug 14, 2012 05:20PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.