Friday, November 27, 2009

Two down, one to go

For more than a half dozen years I've been intrigued by what is called the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike. When the Turnpike was built in the 1930s it was renowned for its abundant tunnels that cut through the rugged mountains of western Pennsylvania. In order to save costs, the original roadway featured tunnels with only one lane for traffic in each direction. By the 1960s, these narrow tunnels were creating choked traffic conditions and the Turnpike Commission began digging parallel tunnels so that two lanes could travel in each direction. However, for three tunnels, it made more sense to redirect the roadway, leaving three abandoned tunnels on two different stretches of dormant roadway.

Kendra, Matt, and I traversed the longest of these tunnels back in 2007. That one is known as Sideling Hill and it's the easternmost of the tunnels. Yesterday, Kendra and I convinced Zach and Stephen to travel to Rays Hill, the shortest of them, which is located near Breezewood.

Frankly, Rays Hill wasn't as fascinating an experience as Sideling Hill. It's much more inaccessible. There's no legal place to park at the eastern portal. The western portal is very close to a maintained road, however there's no safe place to park there.

However, the four of us got up on the old roadway and at least saw Rays Hill.

Next goals:

Be the first to post a photograph on Google Earth of the Laurel Hill Tunnel. Laurel Hill was the first to be bypassed and the roadway on which it is based is very short. It will be hard to get to it as it is far west of my Uncle Larry's home. Further the wilderness out there is even more rugged and unpopulated than northern Fulton County.

Travel the length of the abandoned section near Breezewood by bicycle. It's 8 miles long. Taking it from Breezewood to the eastern end and back should only take a couple of hours.

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