Colorado will receive $10 million in a U.S. Dept. of Transportation TIGER grant to add a fixed fire-suppression system at the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels (EJMT) on I-70 west. The system is one of 52 projects in 37 states across the nation selected to receive funding.

Photo courtesy of CDOT
The Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels, 11,158 ft in elevation and 50 miles west of Denver, will get a new fire-suppression system.

The fire suppression system would not completely extinguish a vehicle fire in the tunnels but rather buy critical time needed for first responders to safely approach the scene and take action.
Historically, the EJMT complex has experienced two to three fires a year since the opening of the tunnels in the 1970s.

While CDOT has first responders and firefighting equipment as part of the EJMT complex, the fire suppressant system will serve as another critical tool in battling these fires and keeping the traveling public safe and the interstate open.

“The fire suppression system will help protect the traveling public as well as this critical asset to our highway system,” said Colorado Dept. of Transportation Executive Director Don Hunt.  “A closure or long-term damage to one of these tunnels could cost Colorado billions of dollars and impact tourism along the I-70 mountain corridor, so it is critical that we move forward with this project.”

The $10 Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, combined with $5 million provided through House Bill 13-1252, which was signed in May 2013, will provide more than half of the funding for the $25-million project. 

“The importance of this project has been recognized and strongly supported at both the state and federal level,” added Hunt. “Without that support, the installation of the fire suppression system would likely still be an idea rather than a reality.” 

CDOT hopes to have the fixed fire suppression system installed by fall 2016.

Other regional TIGER grants included $4.58 million to Missoula County, Mont., for work on the Missoula to Lolo Trail and $8 million to the town of Jackson, Wyo., to build the Jackson Transit Facility.