Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels Fixed Fire Suppression System

Project Facts

  • Cost: $20 million
  • Average daily tunnels traffic: $30,000 (funded through a federal Transportation Investments Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, state transportation funds and funds appropriated by the General Assembly)
  • Contractors: Barnard Construction Company, Inc., Rondinelli Life Safety/BCER Engineering, ILF Consulting Engineers, Western States Fire Protection Company, and FAS Systems Group

This ongoing project—construction for which was completed from spring to December 2015—involves the installation, and continuous testing and maintenance of a fire suppression system within both directions of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels on I-70.

The system helps protect travelers and both tunnels—a critical asset to the highway system. It helps eliminate closures or long-term damage to these tunnels, which could cost Colorado billions of dollars and impact tourism along the I-70 mountain corridor.

In the past, there had been two to three fires a year since the tunnels opened in the 1970s. While CDOT has firefighting capability at the EJMT, the fixed fire suppression system provides first responders the critical time needed to safely approach the scene and take action, and is a necessary tool in combating tunnel fires, keeping the public safe, protecting the tunnel structure and minimizing disruptions to traffic.

Major project elements 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; and
  • a fiber optic linear heat detection system.

The vast majority of the construction work has been invisible to the traveling public, occurring in the ventilation shafts above the tunnels; resulting in minimal traffic disruptions.

Learn more about Gov. John Hickenlooper's support of this project.