U.S. Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Congressman Jared Polis welcomed the news today that the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Colorado a $10 million competitive grant to install a fire-suppression system in the Eisenhower and Johnson Memorial Tunnels. The upgrades will strengthen commerce along with Interstate 70 corridor, improve public safety and ensure any future tunnel fires do not shut down I-70.
"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."
"I am thrilled that the Colorado Department of Transportation received $10 million for the Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels Fire Suppression System. These tunnels are essential to western economic thoroughfare and sustain our state's ski and recreational industries," Polis said. "For far too long the current fire suppression system for the Eisenhower and Johnson Tunnels has been dangerously inadequate. But with this funding, the new fire suppression system will ensure that the millions of travelers who pass through these tunnels each year will be safer from catastrophic fire risk. I am pleased to have worked on this issue for years with Senators Udall and Bennet and the rest of the Colorado delegation."
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.