CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. - Work will begin this fall on a new fire suppression system for the I-70 Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels.
While workers at the tunnel are trained in fighting fires and have equipment to fight fires, the new, fixed fire suppression system will provide first responders the critical time needed to safely approach the scene and take action, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
"The fire suppression system will help protect the traveling public as well as this critical asset to our highway system," said Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. "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.”
On average, 30,000 vehicles per day pass through the tunnels, CDOT said.
Officials said workers typically handle two to three fires per year.
The $20 million project is funded through a federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery grant, state transportation funds, and funds appropriated by the General Assembly.
The new fire suppression system will include:
A water-only deluge fire suppression system which is capable of suppressing a large fire (up to 35 megawatts) in the first two minutes of the event
A system capable of providing water for 60 minutes with two deluge sprinkler zones as well as 500 gallons per minute from the existing standpipe system
A new drainage system
CDOT said most of the construction work will be "invisible" to the traveling public, because it will occur in the ventilation shafts above the tunnels.
The fixed fire suppression system is expected to be fully operational by December 2015.