Skip to main content

Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnels in the early 1980s

During the Fall of 1981 and the Summer of 1982, Bill Symons explored the three former single tube tunnels of the Pennsylvania Turnpike System.  At that time, the tunnels - Laurel Hill, Ray's Hill, and Sideling Hill - had been abandoned for over 10 years.  Since then, these three once busy passageways have been explored by many Turnpike, road, adventure, and outdoor enthusiasts.  What is unique about these photos from 35 years ago is that many of the original artifacts (lettering and lane stripping) still existed at the entrances to the three tunnels.  With the widespread popularity of abandoned Turnpike exploration, these photos capture the exterior of the abandoned tunnels closer to their operable form than they are today.

I am pleased to share with you Bill's photos as part of the blog's Pennsylvania Turnpike Collection.  These photos show the abandoned tunnels and roadways of the PA Turnpike with 35 years less of decay and vandalism.  But at the same time, it is truly amazing that after nearly 50 years of quiet abandonment that these small forgotten ribbons of highway have kept a remarkable form that serves as a living history of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Laurel Hill Tunnel:
Bypassed in 1964, the Laurel Hill Tunnel, located in Westmoreland County, was the first tunnel to be bypassed on the turnpike system.  Of the three abandoned turnpike tunnels, the Laurel Hill Tunnel is the forgotten one.  Located in remote southeastern Westmoreland County, the tunnel stood proud among overgrowth and fill when Bill visited the location in the Fall of 1981 and in the Summer of 1982.

Laurel Hill's west portal in the fall of 1981.  Asphalt fill blocked the westbound lane and the entrance to the tunnel.  'Laurel Hill' still stands at the tunnel's entrance. (Bill Symons)

Entrance to the eastern portal of the Laurel Hill Tunnel, Summer 1982.  This is an excellent example of how narrow the roadway becomes upon entering the tunnel.  Also of note is the concrete retaining wall running to the entrance. (Bill Symons)
Ray's Hill Tunnel:
Ray's Hill Tunnel along with nearby Sideling Hill Tunnel was bypassed in 1968.  The turnpike opened 13 miles of new tunnel less roadway on October 30th of that year.  The tunnel's length was relatively short at 2,532 feet.  Because of its short length, Ray's Hill was the only tunnel built with one set of exhaust fans.  The eastern portal was erected of stone and concrete but minus the exhaust fans that existed on the western end. 

Looking west and exiting the tunnel, Fall 1981.  Thirteen years dormant, the abandoned roadway is cracked and full of overgrowth. (Bill Symons)

The narrowing lanes of the westbound Turnpike approaching the western portal of Ray's Hill Tunnel. (Bill Symons)

Entrance to the western portal of Ray's Hill Tunnel.  By 1999, the letters were gone. (Bill Symons)
Looking east from the eastern portal of Ray's Hill Tunnel.  Ray's Hill Tunnel was only 2,532 in length and the light at the end of this short tunnel can be seen. (Bill Symons)
A side perspective of the exhaust fan less eastern portal of the tunnel.  Some of the letters had fallen off their mounts. (Bill Symons)
The former PA Turnpike exiting the eastern portal of the tunnel as viewed from the top of Ray's Hill. (Bill Symons)

Sideling Hill Tunnel:
The Sideling Hill Tunnel is the longest of the three abandoned tunnels at 6,782 feet.  It was also bypassed in 1968. 

The very narrow entrance to the eastern Sideling Hill tunnel portal, Summer 1982. (Bill Symons)
Exiting east of the Sideling Hill Tunnel and curving towards a reunion with the modern-day Turnpike. (Bill Symons)

Site Navigation:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

History of the Big Oak Flat Road (Yosemite National Park)

This week I hiked much of what was the original alignment of the Big Oak Flat Road which is located to the north of the modern roadway.  Unlike the original alignment of the Wawona Road the Old Big Oak Flat Road is surprisingly intact.


The complete history of the Big Oak Flat Road including the original alignment can be found on a 2002 report from the U.S. Department of Interior on the Old Big Oak Flat Road.

U.S. Department of the Interior on the Old Big Oak Flat Road

The Big Oak Flat Road began construction east from the mining community of Big Oak Flat in towards Yosemite Valley in 1869.  The Big Oak Flat Road was constructed by the Chinese Camp and Yosemite Turnpike Company which had secured the franchise rights for a toll road to the Yosemite Grant (the designation prior to Yosemite National Park).  By the summer of 1871 the Big Oak Flat Road reached the northern cliffs above Yosemite Valley which is when the Chinese Camp and Yosemite Turnpike Company ran out of funding.  After the…

Horseshoe Meadows Road; former California State Route 190 and the legacy of the Lone Pine-Porterville HIgh Sierra Road

This summer I had an opportunity to drive one of the lesser known great roads of California; Horseshoe Meadows Road from Whitney Portal Road westward into Horseshoe Meadows of the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains.  Aside from being massive climb into the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains the path of Horseshoe Meadows Road was once part of California State Route 190 and was intended to be part of a Trans-Sierra Highway known as the Lone Pine-Porterville High Sierra Road.


Horseshoe Meadows Road is located west of Lone Pine of Inyo County and is 19.7 miles in length.  Horseshoe Meadows Road begins at an approximate elevation of 4,500 feet above sea level at Whitney Portal Road in the Alabama Hills and ends at an elevation of 10,072 feet above sea level in Horseshoe Meadows.  Horseshoe Meadows Road is the second highest paved road in California only behind Rock Creek Road near Tom's Place.  Pjammcycling rates Horseshoe Meadows Road with an average gradient of 6.2% and lists it as th…

The Tioga Pass Road

Last Summer the Tioga Pass Road over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite National Park opened late due to the heavy snow pack from the previous winter.  Approaching the start of July the Park Service finally had cleared the road to Tioga Pass.  That being the case I headed up shortly after the 4th of July holiday during a lull in the tourist season.


The Tioga Pass Road runs from the Big Oak Flat Road at Crane Flat east to US Route 395 ("US 395").  The Tioga Pass Road is largely within the boundary of Yosemite National Park but is maintained by Caltrans as California State Route 120 ("CA 120") east of the Tioga Pass entry station to US 395.  The National Park Service maintained portion of the Tioga Pass Road serve as a implied connection between the two segments of CA 120.  The Tioga Pass Road is the highway mountain pass in California reaching Tioga Pass at 9,945 feet above sea level.



Part 1; the history of the Tioga Pass Road

Tioga Pass first obtained notewort…