Skip to main content

The National Road - Maryland - Sideling Hill Cut


Interstate 68 through Western Maryland is a highly scenic drive, and the freeway's construction has its own collection of stories as well.  It is fitting then that both the scenery and history of this Interstate come together at Sideling Hill, a handful of miles west of Hancock and Interstate 70.  This impressive piece of highway engineering eliminated a narrow, twisty an treacherous climb up and down Sideling Hill along US 40 was a key piece in improving and opening up access to Western Maryland to the rest of the state.


When opened in August 1985, the impressive road cut was the culmination of  over a decade of studies, planning and construction.  The question of how to get around, over or through Sideling Hill involved five different alternatives.  Two of them via a tunnel and the other three a cut through the mountain. (1)  Overall costs, maintenance concerns, and hazardous materials concerns ruled out the lengthy tunnel projects.  Construction on Sideling Hill section of Interstate 68 would begin in the early 1980s.


Sideling Hill Cut is a 340' cut from the top of the mountain at this point which is 1620'. (2)  Sideling Hill's peak in Maryland is 1760' just to the north.  It took five million pounds of explosives to blast through the 4.5 million cubic tons (About 10 million tons) of earth that once occupied the cut. (2)  The cost to complete the cut was $20.1 million. (2)


The cut exposes rock formations that date to the Mississippian Period - or between 340 and 365 million years ago. (3) Various types of sandstones, siltstones, conglomerates, shale, and coal can be found within the cut. (3)


The Sideling Hill Cut as part of Interstate 68 was a considerable transportation improvement connecting Western Maryland to the rest of the state.  For decades, east/west traffic had to cross the mountain via a twisty, narrow two-lane US 40 to the south which featured a dangerous hairpin turn near the top of the mountain.  In August 1991, the Sideling Hill Exhibit and Visitors Center was opened along the westbound lanes of the freeway.  Access to the Exhibit Center via a parking lot and pedestrian bridge for eastbound travelers was included.  The Exhibit Center was one of Maryland's top tourist attractions; however, budget cuts in 2009 closed the exhibit center permanently.  Since then, the Sideling Hill exhibits are on permanent display at the Hancock Museum and Visitors Center and the scenic viewpoints remain as part of a rest area.


The rest area affords many excellent scenic views of not only the Sideling Hill Cut but North into Pennsylvania and east towards Hancock as well.  There are numerous scenic vantage points at the rest stop including steps that can allow you closeup views of the road cut and the exposed rock formations.  If you are traveling through on Interstate 68, the Sideling Hill Cut is a great stop to stretch out, walk around, enjoy the scenery and even have a picnic.


 Site Navigation:


Sources & Links:


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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…

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…

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…