Tunnel readies for milestone | SummitDaily.com

Tunnel readies for milestone

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Eisenhower Tunnel will record its 200 millionth vehicle sometime in early March – almost exactly 30 years after the tunnel first opened.

Tunnel superintendent Mike Salamon said the driver of that particular vehicle won’t receive a prize. Nor do tunnel employees plan a special celebration. But it is, nevertheless, considered a significant occurrence.

“That will be a milestone for us,” said tunnel superintendent Mike Salamon. “That’s quite an accomplishment.

“We’ve never had a fatality in the tunnel – I’m very proud of that from a safety perspective. We’ve had our share of car fires, automobile accidents and fender benders. Knock on wood, we’ve been pretty successful in handling any emergency that’s arisen up to this point.”

The first bore of the tunnel opened March 8, 1973, and the second in 1979.

Construction of the 1.7-mile underground structure began in 1968.

“I think, in many ways, it did change the face of the Western Slope,” Salamon said.

He did not, however, agree with a Breckenridge Journal prediction from the date of the tunnel opening that it would make Summit County a suburb of Denver.

“Certainly, there are a few people that commute, but in general, I think it’s still more of a weekend encounter,” he said. “Certainly, traffic counts would point to that.”

Early state highway officials didn’t accurately anticipate the volume of vehicles the tunnel would draw.

“Traffic projections went right off the charts within a few years after opening,” Salamon said. “Their projections were way off in terms of the volumes that we see now.”

Fifty-three people work at the Eisenhower Tunnel, with several people on board seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Salamon said. Their duties run the gamut from firefighting and wrecker operations to high-voltage electrical and electronic repairs.

Salamon doesn’t know exactly when the 200 millionth vehicle will make its passage through the tunnel, predicting only that it will happen sometime during the first week of March.

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