Construction begins on America’s highest vehicle tunnel - HISTORY
Year
1968

Construction begins on America’s highest vehicle tunnel

On this day in 1968, construction starts on the north tunnel of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnel on Interstate 70 in Colorado, some 60 miles west of Denver. Located at an altitude of more than 11,000 feet, the project was an engineering marvel and became the world’s highest vehicular tunnel when it was completed in 1979. Four months after opening, one million vehicles had passed through the tunnel; today, some 10 million vehicles drive through it each year.

The north tunnel (or bore) was finished on March 8, 1973 and named for America’s 34th president, who was in office from 1953 to 1961. Construction on the south tunnel began on August 18, 1975, and was finished on December 21, 1979. The south tunnel was named for Edwin C. Johnson, a Colorado governor and U.S. senator who was a big supporter of an interstate highway system across his state. (Interstate 70 stretches more than 2,100 miles from Interstate 15 near Cove Fort, Utah, to Baltimore, Maryland. It was America’s first interstate highway project. Construction began in 1956 and ended in 1992 in Glenwood Canyon, located near the city of Glenwood Springs in western Colorado.)

The north tunnel cost $117 million to construct and at the height of the building process, some 1,140 people worked three shifts, 24 hours a day, six days a week. The south tunnel cost $145 million and employed 800 workers, approximately 500 of whom were involved in drilling operations.

The Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel cuts through the Continental Divide at an average elevation of 11,112 feet. (Driving conditions around the tunnel can be challenging during the months between November and April: The surrounding area receives an average of 26 feet of snow during those months.) The north tunnel, which handles westbound traffic, is 1.693 miles long, while the south tunnel (eastbound traffic) is 1.697 miles. Illuminating those tunnels is no small task–each has approximately 2,000 light fixtures using 8-foot bulbs.

The Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnel is an impressive accomplishment, but it’s small potatoes compared to some others. The 15.2 mile-long Laerdal Tunnel in Norway is the world’s longest road tunnel. One of the busiest vehicular tunnels in America is the Lincoln Tunnel, which was built under the Hudson River to connect New Jersey and Midtown Manhattan in New York City. That tunnel’s center tube opened in 1937, while its north tube opened in 1945 and its south tube in 1957. In 2008, some 41,874,000 vehicles passed through the Lincoln Tunnel.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Frankie Avalon’s “Venus” hits #1

The business minds behind American Idol are not the first to try their hand at manufacturing pop stars. In fact, the process of corporate idol-making is nearly as old as rock and roll itself. The first man-made idols were launched in the late 1950s from Philadelphia, where a ...read more

The Ides of March

Gaius Julius Caesar, dictator of Rome, is stabbed to death in the Roman Senate house by 60 conspirators led by Marcus Junius Brutus and Gaius Cassius Longinus.Caesar, born into the Julii, an ancient but not particularly distinguished Roman aristocratic family, began his political ...read more

Maine enters the Union

As part of the Missouri Compromise between the North and the South, Maine is admitted into the Union as the 23rd state. Administered as a province of Massachusetts since 1647, the entrance of Maine as a free state was agreed to by Southern senators in exchange for the entrance of ...read more

Czar Nicholas II abdicates

During the February Revolution, Czar Nicholas II, ruler of Russia since 1894, is forced to abdicate the throne by the Petrograd insurgents, and a provincial government is installed in his place.Crowned on May 26, 1894, Nicholas was neither trained nor inclined to rule, which did ...read more

Johnson calls for equal voting rights

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress to urge the passage of legislation guaranteeing voting rights for all.Using the phrase “we shall overcome,” borrowed from African-American leaders struggling for equal rights, Johnson declared ...read more

Russian czar abdicates

During the February Revolution, Czar Nicholas II, ruler of Russia since 1894, is forced to abdicate the throne on this day in 1917, after strikes and general revolts break out in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg).Crowned on May 26, 1894, Nicholas was a relatively weak and ...read more

President Nixon hints at reintervention

President Nixon hints that the United States might intervene again in Vietnam to prevent communist violations of the truce. A cease-fire under the provisions of the Paris Peace Accords had gone into effect on January 27, 1973, but was quickly and repeatedly violated by both sides ...read more

Bobby Orr scores 100 points in one season

On March 15, 1970, Boston Bruin Bobby Orr becomes the first defenseman in NHL history to score 100 points in a season, after scoring four goals in one game against the Detroit Red Wings. Orr would finish the 1969-70 season with 120 points, a record for a defensive player that ...read more

Andrew Jackson is born

Future President Andrew Jackson is born in a backwoods region between North and South Carolina to Irish immigrant parents on this day in 1767. Jackson was essentially an orphan—all but one member of his family were killed during the Revolutionary War–who rose from humble ...read more

Andrew Jackson born

Andrew Jackson is born in the Garden of the Waxhaws, South Carolina.The son of Irish immigrants, Jackson spent much of his early life in the rough-and-tumble frontier regions of South Carolina and Tennessee. His father died from injuries sustained while lifting a heavy log, and ...read more

Julius Caesar is stabbed

“Beware the Ides of March,” the soothsayer urges Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Julius Caesar (act I, scene ii). Despite the forewarning, Caesar is stabbed in the back by his friend Marcus Brutus. Caesar falls and utters his famous last words, “Et tu, Brute?” (And you, ...read more

Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather opens

On this day in 1972, The Godfather–a three-hour epic chronicling the lives of the Corleones, an Italian-American crime family led by the powerful Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando)–is released in theaters.The Godfather was adapted from the best-selling book of the same name by Mario ...read more

The ides of March: Julius Caesar is murdered

Julius Caesar, the”dictator for life”of the Roman Empire, is murdered by his own senators at a meeting in a hall next to Pompey’s Theatre. The conspiracy against Caesar encompassed as many as sixty noblemen, including Caesar’s own protege, Marcus Brutus.Caesar was scheduled to ...read more

Edward A. Perry born

On this day in 1831, Confederate General Edward Aylesworth Perry is born in Richmond, Massachusetts. The transplanted Yankee led a Florida brigade during the Civil War, and served as governor of the state after the war.Perry received his education at Lee Academy in Massachusetts ...read more