Colorado DOT seeks plan for hazmat trucks in I-70 tunnels

March 29, 2019

Keith Goble


Certain hazmat truckloads traveling through Colorado soon could be cleared to access the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels.

Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law a bill to have the Colorado Department of Transportation study whether tanker trucks hauling hazardous materials should be authorized to access the tunnels on Interstate 70 west of Denver.

Affected loads now must use Loveland Pass on U.S. 6 to travel through the area. An exception is made to access the tunnels when the two-lane pass is closed for weather or other reasons. Hazmat loads then are permitted to use the tunnels during certain times.

The Legislature approved a bill to require CDOT to complete a study by December 2020. Previously SB32, the new law charges the agency with coming up with findings and recommendations for permitting hazmat loads to travel the tunnels.

State officials tried before to come up with a solution to address concerns about hazmat loads driving through the tunnels. In 2011, legislation was approved to create a $25 million fire-suppression system for the tunnels.

Supporters of the new law requiring a study have noted the system, however, has shown to be inadequate to address fire concerns. They advocated for the study to help come up with a solution. Others said it is quite possible a study will confirm hazmat trucks should not run through the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels with other traffic.

Commercial driver licenses

Also signed into law is a bill to help clear the path for putting younger drivers behind the wheel of a truck.

SB18 lowers from 21 years to 18 years the minimum age required in the state to be licensed to operate a commercial vehicle in interstate commerce.

Federal law must also include the authorization to take effect at the state level.

Legislation introduced in the U.S. House and Senate would lower the age requirement to get an interstate CDL from 21 to 18.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes the legislation saying it would make for unsafe driving conditions and that it would hurt wages for all professional drivers.