Letter to President Obama calls for funding to upgrade tunnel safety
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado’s congressional delegation may not agree on much, especially as the upcoming election intensifies the partisan divide, but all of them, from Sen, Mark Udall to Rep. Doug Lamborn, are asking President Obama to help fund critical safety upgrades to the Eisenhower Tunnel.
All nine members of the state’s elected lawmakers in Washington signed a Feb. 6 letter asking the Obama administration to dedicate $20 million in the 2013 budget to pay for a fire suppression system.
The lawmakers said a recent shows the existing system “dangerously inadequate,” and called for swift installation of a water mist fire suppression system to protect the key regional traffic artery and the safety of travelers in the tunnels.
Going into more detail on the CDOT study, the delegation said the results suggest that, without an upgraded fire suppression system, firefighters stand little chance of putting a fire out before it reaches disastrous proportions. A serious fire could even cause structural dame inside the tunnel, potentially requiring replacement of the bore, a project estimate to case about $1.5 billion.
In addition to enhancing safety, a fire suppression system could also reduce the need to meter traffic in the tunnel, according to a CDOT I-70 report issued last December. From the report:
“A fire suppression system could allow for a policy change for hazmat trucks to free flow through the tunnels thus preventing regular traffic from being stopped and throughput would be increased. The fire suppression system would help with rapid fire incident response in tunnel reducing the risk of catastrophic fire incidents. If Hhazardous materials were allowed through the tunnels, CDOT could shift resources from Loveland Pass to I–70 at the EJMT for cost effectiveness and efficiency.”
CDOT is currently pursuing homeland security funding for the fire suppression upgrades.