Colorado raises height limit on I-70 tunnel

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The Colorado Transportation Commission recently gave its approval to increase the height limit for vehicles traveling through the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels on Interstate 70.

On a unanimous vote, the commission authorized the Colorado Department of Transportation to move ahead with a pilot program, allowing vehicles or loads up to 13 feet, 11 inches in height to travel through the EJMT, up from the current limit of 13 feet, six inches. The program is set to begin in the next several weeks after all the necessary signage is installed and the height sensors elevated.

“It’s been more than 20 years since the height rule at the tunnels was adopted, and it hasn’t been updated,” says Jeff Kullman, CDOT regional transportation director. “The new ceiling lights and variable message signs that we’ve installed aren’t as low, so the additional clearance allows us to raise the height restriction.”

The standard trailer height is 13 feet, six inches, but can be exceeded when snow and ice is atop the trailer roof or if a vehicle is equipped with an air suspension system that is riding high.

Over-height detection sensors, located at both tunnel approaches, shoot a beam across the road that sets off an alarm and red lights when a vehicle is above the height limit, requiring all traffic to stop while the over-height vehicle is directed off the highway. More than 10,000 vehicles activate the alarm each year. CDOT estimates 8,000 stops can be eliminated by raising the current height restriction, reducing traffic delays.

The pilot program continues through April 30, 2008. CDOT then will evaluate the results and make a recommendation to the commission on whether the height restriction should be permanently raised.