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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)

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