Quandary: The benefits of the Eisenhower Tunnel fire suppression system
Now that the new fire suppression system has been completed and tested at Eisenhower/Johnston Tunnel, will the fuel trucks that have been driving Loveland Pass use the tunnel?
Keep up the great work.
A faithful daily reader
Let’s see if I can be helpful here: yes and no. Are we done?
Kidding, sort of. Loveland Pass is like the Wild West of truck driving: there are no restrictions — at least as far as the load goes. Obviously, chain laws and such still apply. I mean, even Wyatt Earp had his standards. This means that hazardous materials (hazmat) and the like can be transported along the route. The Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel does not have this same distinction and at this point, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) does not plan to change that.
According to CDOT, to get the route a hazmat designation would mean, “CDOT staff members, local governments or private entities must request the Mobility Section of the Division of Transportation Development to perform an analysis of the route.” If the route meets certain guidelines as laid out by the transportation deities themselves, the process would move forward. Eventually I’m sure a hood ornament and air freshener would have to be sacrificed under a full moon to make that one happen. Basically, don’t look for that change any time soon. After all, with 30,000 vehicles per day traveling through the tunnels, do you really want to go through that much extra effort to add more traffic?
As with any rule in life, there are exceptions though. When Ullr descends on the High Country and the flakes pile up too high for Loveland to be safe for travel, the pass closes. And instead of forcing all those overly caffeinated big wheels to cool it in Summit for the day, CDOT asks us all to remember those fine lessons we learned back in preschool and share the tunnels. In those instances, CDOT closes the tunnel at the top of every hour and escorts waiting semis through. Generally, the tunnel will only remain closed for about 15 minutes before the Joneses and their rented recreational vehicle can get back in there.
I can just imagine your next question: So why spend all that money on the suppression system then? Well, like I said, thousands of vehicles use the tunnel daily — a number that is difficult to accommodate in those instances when all roads close down, and our little hamlet becomes a truck stop. Imagine if a major fire put the tunnels out of commission for an extended period of time. While the open slopes might be nice, the empty wallets would eventually send us all into a tailspin. Enter the fire suppression system. On average, the tunnels see two to three fires a year by way of car, semi and RV. So to make sure those poor Joneses don’t shut us all down, the fire suppression system acts quickly to help prevent major damage while first responders get on scene.
The next time you make the great journey eastward say a little thanks to CDOT for spending some cold hard cash for your safety — and financial security.
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