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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), will improve Interstate 80 through the Carlin Tunnels area in northeastern Nevada. 

The approximately $31 million project will improve 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 Detours

See project detour page

Detours will be set up to provide the quickest and safest travel through the project. While work is conducted in one tunnel, westbound traffic will be detoured to the adjacent old highway (U.S. 40) bypassing the under-construction tunnel area. Meanwhile, eastbound traffic will continue to travel through the tunnel in which construction is not underway.

Signage and traffic control devices will easily direct motorists through the construction area.

The detour is expected to add less than five minutes of travel time for each trip through the construction zone.

Posted speed limits will be reduced from 75 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, or less as needed, for traveler safety through the project area.

Motorists are reminded to drive safely through the Carlin Tunnels and all road construction zones.

Project Description

Carlin Tunnels Before Photo

Project improvements include:


Repair and Upgrade Carlin Tunnels, Including New Lighting System

 Inspection shows that the Carlin Tunnels are in good structural condition, although some deterioration is taking place, primarily to the road surface within the tunnels.

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

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


Rehabilitate and Seismically Retrofit Eight Bridges Through Carlin Canyon

The project will enhance and retrofit 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 will be replaced, along with bridge rails and certain bridge joints for improved driving and seismic stability. The bridges will also be repainted.


Roadway Pavement Reconstruction

The pavement leading up to the tunnels will be 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 will be enhanced and connected via fiber optic cable.

Project Benefits


  • Enhance the interstate system and bridge and tunnel infrastructure for the safety and mobility of travelers and commerce
  • Protect public tunnel, roadway and bridge infrastructure using efficient and responsible maintenance and preservation measures
  • Improve safety
  • Utilize 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 is anticipated to continue through September 2014, with a winter construction break.

The I-80 Carlin Tunnels Project will utilize 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 estimated to reduce the project timeframe from 24 to 16 months.

The project timeline and project elements are subject to change. 

Bicycle Access Improvements

Currently, due to narrow roadway shoulders, bicycles are not allowed through the Carlin Tunnels.  Subsequently, bicyclists use the frontage road to detour around the tunnels. As the frontage road terminates at I-80, bicycles riding eastbound are required to cross the interstate to resume riding east.

As part of the project, a bicycle path will be 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 will guide 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 will direct westbound bicyclists to the detour road and around the tunnels.  Westbound cyclists will use the existing ramps to exit and enter the interstate.

See project detour page for bicycle construction access information.


Project Contacts

Assistant District Engineer

Michael Murphy

(775) 777-2700


Project Manager

Dale Keller

(775) 888-7603

Click here to e-mail