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Driving You Crazy: What are the big 'plates' and orange barriers on northbound I-25 near Hampden?

Posted at 11:06 AM, Nov 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-08 13:06:47-05

Rebecca from Denver writes, “What's driving you crazy? When I'm driving North-bound I-25 from Greenwood Village to Thornton daily, I see big 'plates' and orange cone/barriers every few yards on the left side - are those COVERING the drainage spots that allow water & snow, etc. to drain off the highway? Every single one has that big square plate covering those & it worries me greatly. What is up with that?”

This particular work Rebecca is to lay the foundation of CDOT’s I-25 Smart Electrical Intelligent Transportation System. In other words, smart ramp meters. The workers along I-25 are replacing the fiber optic backbone between RidgeGate Parkway and Broadway along northbound I-25.

The workers are opening up large squares on the left shoulder of the interstate and then boring a multi-duct conduit and pulling a new fiber optic line through that conduit. If they don’t finish the work overnight at one of the holes they dug up, they will leave it open but cover it with a large metal plate. The project team told me that these one-inch plates are bolted into the pavement. The 3/4" bolts are cut off below the nuts and the plates are not sharp to prevent tires from being punctures if a driver drifts off and runs over a plate.

The work began three weeks ago but unfortunately lost some time due to the snowstorm last week. In fact, the plows during the storm scraped up some of the metal plates and CDOT had to stage a construction truck in that area to protect drivers from falling onto one of the holes. All the work for this portion of the project occurs during the evenings between 7:00 pm and 5:30 am Sunday through Thursday. CDOT estimates that all work near Hampden will be completed by Friday, November 15th, assuming no additional weather delays.

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

That fiber optic line will be the way CDOT will implement their intelligent transportation system network. Basically, they are using it to connect a series of “smart” ramp meter lights and controllers, closed circuit cameras and overhead signs. The idea is to monitor traffic flow on the interstate and then release traffic from the side roads in a way to keep traffic flowing better than it does now. Right now the meters let drivers join highway traffic after waiting for 5 or 10 seconds. The times are set and do not change. These new smart meters could hold traffic longer or shorter depending on traffic flow and is hoped will allow for a better flow of highway traffic at the expense of side road traffic. You can read more about that from a Denver7 story published about this a few years ago.

CDOT didn’t give me an estimate when they think they will be ready to start running the new smart ramp meters but you can be sure I will let you know before they do.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.