Automated sprinklers could help avert a serious catastrophe
By Summit Voice
FRISCO — A $10 million dollar grant will help the Colorado Department of Transportation install a long-sought fire suppression system in the Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial Tunnels along I-70.
Colorado’s congressional delegation was unified last year in seeking support for the grant. All nine members of the state’s elected delegation 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.
At the time, the lawmakers warned that the lack of a fire suppression system was a serious issue for commerce along the I-70 corridor. Without the sprinkler system, firefighters stand little chance of putting out a tunnel fire 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.
“The Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial Tunnels are engineering marvels that support jobs, businesses and commerce throughout Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. This competitive grant and the upgrades it will support will strengthen public safety and ensure that the tunnels remain safe avenues for commerce,” Udall said. “I can remember the days before the tunnels were completed, and all traffic had to make the arduous trek over Loveland Pass. This competitive grant will make sure that one crash or fire does not set I-70 back nearly four decades.”
“Interstate 70 is a major route through the heart of Colorado that helps keep our state’s economy churning,” Bennet said. “Whether you’re a skier headed up to the high country or a truck driver headed across the country, the Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial Tunnels are important parts of any trip through the mountains. This grant will help ensure the safety of millions of travelers that take this trek each day.”
The $10 million competitive grant will be funded through the fifth round of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER grant program.
A bipartisan coalition of Colorado lawmakers sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in May 2013 urging his department to award Colorado the $10 million grant. In the letter, Udall, Bennet, Polis and their colleagues called the project critical to “improve safety for the traveling public and CDOT workers.” They added that equipping the Eisenhower Tunnel with a better fire-suppression system will strengthen commerce along the I-70 corridor and reduce the likelihood of fatal tunnel fires.