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Carlin Tunnels Project- Interstate 80

Carlin Tunnels Inside

The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), improved Interstate 80 through the Carlin Tunnels area in northeastern Nevada. 

The approximately $31 million project improved close to two miles of Interstate 80 through the Carlin Canyon, located approximately seven miles east of Carlin and 14 miles west of Elko.

Project Description

Carlin Tunnels Before Photo

 Carlin Tunnels Project:

Repaired and Upgraded the Carlin Tunnels, Including a New Lighting System

The roadbed through the tunnels was reconstructed, including roadway drainage and concrete around the tunnel entrance, and waterproofing and joint sealer was replaced on the tunnels’ concrete access covers.

In addition, the tunnel lighting system was completely renovated with new light-emitting diodes (LED). The new lighting utilizes a sophisticated lighting control system which monitors and gradually dims or brightens lighting to best match outside ambient conditions. The new system provides drivers enhanced visibility while transitioning from outside lighting to light conditions within the tunnels. The enhanced visibility is projected to increase safety allowing drivers to remain more self-assured of the road ahead and less likely to unnecessarily slow or brake.

Rehabilitated and Seismically Retrofitted Eight Bridges Through Carlin Canyon

The project enhanced and retrofitted eight I-80 bridges, four directly on each side of the tunnels and four to the east of the tunnels. The driving and approach surfaces of the bridges were replaced, along with bridge rails and certain bridge joints for improved driving and seismic stability. The bridges were also repainted.

Roadway Pavement Reconstruction

The pavement leading up to the tunnels was completely reconstructed to remove cracking and provide an enhanced, safer ride surface.

Intelligent Transportation Systems

Roadway technology such as traffic cameras, road weather information systems, tunnel monitoring cameras, traffic flow detectors and ice warning system were enhanced and connected via fiber optic cable.

Project Benefits


  • Enhanced the interstate system and bridge and tunnel infrastructure for the safety and mobility of travelers and commerce
  • Protected public tunnel, roadway and bridge infrastructure using efficient and responsible maintenance and preservation measures
  • Improved safety
  • Utilized Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) construction method to provide a quality, innovative and cost and time-effective project

Project Timeline

The project began in spring 2013 and was substantially complete in early October, 2014.

The I-80 Carlin Tunnels Project utilized the Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) construction method. The innovative construction method can improve constructability, expedite project construction and decrease costs by allowing the contractor to be involved in project design. With both a highly-qualified designer and contractor collaborating to develop the most effectively-constructed and innovative road project, time and cost efficiencies are maximized. In total, the construction method is reduced the project timeframe from 24 to 16 months.


Bicycle Access Improvements

As part of the project, a bicycle path was constructed to accommodate bicycle access along I-80. Eastbound cyclists will exit I-80 at the East Carlin Interchange (Exit 262) to State Route 221.  New wayfaring signage guidea cyclists south on State Route 221 and east on Chestnut Street. Eastbound riders continue on the detour road (old US-40) and cross under I-80 using the new bike path.  Improved signage directs westbound bicyclists to the detour road and around the tunnels.  Westbound cyclists will use the existing ramps to exit and enter the interstate.

Project Contacts

Assistant District Engineer

Michael Murphy

(775) 777-2700


Project Manager

Dale Keller

(775) 888-7603

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