Located approximately 11,158 above sea level the Eisenhower Johnson Tunnels are the highest point along the U.S Interstate Highway System.
The Eisenhower Tunnel, officially named the Eisenhower-Edwin C. Johnson Memorial Tunnel, is indeed a significant transportation route in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Located approximately 60 miles west of Denver, it is one of the highest vehicular tunnels in the world, with an elevation of 11,158 feet above sea level. However, it is not the highest in the world, as higher tunnels have been constructed elsewhere, such as the Fenghuoshan Tunnel in China.
The tunnel, part of the Interstate 70 highway, connects Denver to Summit County and beyond. The idea for a tunnel under Loveland Pass emerged in the 1950s, with construction starting in 1968. The tunnel, initially named the Straight Creek Tunnel during construction, was renamed to honor President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Edwin C. Johnson, a former governor and U.S. Senator from Colorado. The westbound bore, named after Eisenhower, opened in 1973, and the eastbound bore, named after Johnson, was completed in 1979.
Built through solid granite using the “drill-and-blast” method, the tunnel is 1.7 miles long and features two lanes in each direction. It also includes a ventilation system for air quality. The tunnel’s construction faced numerous challenges, including the high elevation and unexpected fault lines, which significantly delayed the project and increased costs. The Eisenhower Tunnel serves as a crucial link for both recreational and commercial transportation in the region
Traveling westbound from the Eisenhower tunnel you will find some seriously steep grades. 7 miles straight downhill at a 7% grade. Be prepared to encounter stop and go traffic and trucks going extremely slow in the right lane. You can smell burning brakes from a couple of miles away. Watch out for trucks and other vehicles that may lose their brakes.