Mar 8, 2023 - News

Photo gallery: The history of the Eisenhower tunnel at 50 years

Oct. 10, 1960: The south Eisenhower Tunnel included a steel lining that slowed blasting progress. Because of the gneiss mica rock, only 8 feet could be blasted at one time. Photo: Denver Post via Getty Images

This year marks 50 years for the Eisenhower tunnel, the first route through the Continental Divide, connecting the state along Interstate 70.

Driving the news: The first tunnel opened with a huge celebration on March 8, 1973, and the second — allowing one-way traffic on each side — was completed on Dec. 21, 1979.

  • When it opened it was the highest-elevation tunnel in the world.

Flashback: It took 20 years to even find an engineer who believed the project was possible, and ultimately cost about $108 million at the time — roughly double the initial estimate and then a record for federal dollars spent for a single project.

  • As many as 1,140 workers constructed the tunnel, working in shifts 24 hours a day for six days a week.
  • 1 million cubic yards of rock was cleared from each of the bores, enough to fill about 800,000 pickup trucks.

ICYMI: Colorado's Eisenhower tunnel turns 50 and shows its age

Take a look: The tunnel's history, in 12 photos

NOV 14 1972, NOV 15 1972; A concrete truck passes through the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel. Officials think first half of the tunnel will be open for two-way traffic in February.; (Photo By John Beard/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Nov. 14, 1972: A concrete truck passes through the first half of Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel.

NOV 14 1972, NOV 15 1972 A hard-rock miner clears granite debris form cross-bore drill that will connect both halves of Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel. Credit: Denver Post, Inc. (Denver Post via Getty Images)

November 1972: A hard-rock miner clears granite debris form cross-bore drill that will connect both halves of Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel.

JAN 5 1973, 1-19-1973 Eisenhower Tunnel Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

Jan. 5, 1973: In the final months, workers used scaffolding as they rushed to finish the tunnel ahead of the March 1973 opening.

MAR 8 1973, 3-22-1973 Eisenhower Tunnel Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

March 8, 1973: The dedication of the tunnel was a grand event that drew hundreds and a military band.

JUN 21 1974, JUN 24 1974; Blood Taken For Tunnel Test

June 21, 1974: Colorado public health officials conducted testing to see how much carbon monoxide would enter the blood. Blood tests were taken after 15 minutes, 30 minutes and 40 minutes in the tunnel.

SEP 29 1975; Traffic backed up 6 of mile Saturday 9/27 morning at Eisenhower Tunnel.; (Photo By Bill Wunsch/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Sept. 29, 1975: The tunnel initially opened with a single lane of traffic in each direction. The picture shows a six-mile backup.

MAY 19 1976, MAY 27 1976, MAY 31 1976, DEC 19 1979, DEC 20 1979, Eisenhower Tunnel (2nd Bore) Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

May 19, 1976: Three years after the first side opened, arduous work continued on the second bore through the mountain.

MAY 19 1976, MAY 27 1976, MAY 31 1976, DEC 19 1979, DEC 20 1979, Eisenhower Tunnel (2nd Bore) Credit: Denver Post (Denver Post via Getty Images)

May 1976: An engineer maps out how the tunnel dig is designed.

DEC 20 1979. DEC 21 1979, DEC 22 1979; Eisenhower, Dwight D., Memorial Tunnel; (Photo By Bill Peters/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

December 1979: The south tunnel — now eastbound I-70 — opened Dec. 21 to traffic.

Oct 1982, Oct 9 1982; Traffic was snarled along interstate 70 on the west side of Eisenhower Tunnel after snowstorm hit Colordo's high country.; (Photo By Damian Strohmeyer/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Oct. 9, 1982: Then — and now — fall snow storms can snarl traffic on the west side of the tunnel.

GEORGETOWN, CO - AUGUST 23: Colorado Department of Transportation employees keep an eye on the Eisenhower Tunnel, on August 23, 2017 in Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

August 23, 2017: Colorado Department of Transportation employees keep an eye on the Eisenhower Tunnel every moment of the day using about 100 different cameras.

A driver who did not want to be identified and his dog wait out the weather in a long traffic jam on I-70. The two were headed to Breckenridge. After record breaking temperatures reached into the mid-80's yesterday, today April 3rd, 2011 a surprise spring storm from the north brought traffic to a stand still on both the east and west side of Eisenhower Tunnel along Highway I-70. Clear Creek county sheriff deputies closed the highway westbound at Georgetown and diverted traffic back towards Denver. Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Any day: We've all been here. The closure of Interstate 70 for inclement weather is a doggone pain for us all.

Photos: Denver Post via Getty Images

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