Remember that Proposed 9-Mile Tunnel Under Vail, CO?

Liam Abbott | | Post Tag for BrainsBrains
vail, colorado
An aerial view best demonstrates how the current I-70 runs directly through the town of Vail. Image courtesy of iStock.

If you have ever been to Vail, Colorado, you know that the I-70 runs right through it. This busy and especially loud highway runs directly through the middle of Vail, serving as both a divider and constant noise polluter to the people and guests that visit. Although it serves as an easy connection to the town and the resort that sits before it, many plans have been schemed up over the years to divert the I-70 around Vail, or in this case, under it.

Big tunnel projects have been completed along the I-70 before. Take, for example, the Eisenhower Tunnel, which you are required to take to get to Vail when coming from Denver, which is a 1.7 mile (2.74km) long tunnel that sits at 11,155’ (3400m) above sea level, making it the highest road tunnel in the world.

A view of the Eisenhower Memorial Tunnel when it was being built in 1968. Image courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation.

But the proposed Vail tunnel back in 2005 would have dwarfed that. At nine miles (14.5km) long, it would almost be five times longer than the Eisenhower Tunnel and would still sit at over 8000’ (2500m) above sea level. This would also make it the longest road tunnel in North America.

A diagram was included in a draft document outlining tunnel options, showing all five options for building a tunnel under Vail. Option number 1, the most difficult option, involves making a tunnel that would entirely run under Vail mountain. Image courtesy of Kracum Resources LLC.

As Denver 7 reported, to complete this tunnel, it is estimated that 492,000 truckloads of dirt and rock would need to be excavated, equivalent to 375 truckloads a day for four years straight.

Although this project may seem insane, there was good reason to propose it. Currently, the I-70 that runs through Vail takes up a tremendous amount of space in the community, worth hundreds of millions of dollars if developed. Another issue that would be entirely resolved is the current noise problem the I-70 causes. A noise study in Vail in 2000 showed that 25% of residence in Vail experienced noise abatement, as outlined by the Colorado Department of Transportation, meaning they were subject to noise that was louder than 66dB.

The Vail Tunnel Options Report included a sketch showing what could have happened to the land currently occupied by the I-70. Ideas of golf courses, parks, and an expanded Vail village are all seen in this sketch. Image courtesy of Kracum Resources LLC.

At an estimated cost of 6 billion dollars, you may be able to understand why this project never went through, never mind the potential environmental and engineering challenges that would have needed to be overcome. Still, nonetheless, the proposed tunnel remains an interesting footnote in the history of Vail.

vail, colorado
A rendering of what the entrance to the nine-mile-long tunnel could have looked like. Image courtesy of Denver 7.

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2 thoughts on “Remember that Proposed 9-Mile Tunnel Under Vail, CO?

  1. I visited Vail when it was just a small shed and a chairlift, and we got there on a two-lane road after going over the pass. I was just a kid and begged my dad to buy one of the lots they were selling. He told me nobody would buy out there in the middle of nowhere…oooops! It was really cool there before it was ‘There!’

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