Colorado lawmakers say fire suppression system in I-70’s Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel is ‘dangerously inadequate’

Letter to President Obama calls for funding to upgrade tunnel safety

East entrance of the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnel along I-70 in Colorado.

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.


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