Exploring The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (2023)

Exploring The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (1)

The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike is THE MOST apocalyptic hiking / biking trail in the Keystone State!

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Thirteen miles of abandoned superhighway, last open to normal vehicle traffic in 1968.

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Two eerily dark tunnels along the route, both roughly a mile long.

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Relics of the nation’s first superhighway, now a desolate hiking / biking trail in Bedford and Fulton counties.

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If all of this sounds appealing to you, follow along as I explain exactly how to find the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, and what to expect when you visit.

Legal Disclaimer

This property is not maintained or monitored for safety conditions, and therefore this is strictly a VISIT AT YOUR OWN RISK DESTINATION!

By voluntarily exploring this location, YOU assume the risk of any personal injury or damage to personal property, and shall not hold the author liable for any injuries, loss, or damages that may occur while visiting this location.

Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike FAQs

How do you get to the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike?

There are two main access points. One is just outside of Breezewood in Bedford County, while the other is less than a mile from the Sideling Hill rest stop along the present-day PA Turnpike in Fulton County.Exploring The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (6)

Can I navigate to the Breezewood parking area for the abandoned PA Turnpike by GPS?

Yes – use GPS Coordinates 39.999862, -78.228380
The parking area is along Tannery Road.
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Can I navigate to the Sideling Hill parking area for the abandoned PA Turnpike by GPS?

Yes – use GPS coordinates 40.048790, -78.095869
The parking area is just off of Pump Station Road.
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When was the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike built?

Ground was broken for the Pennsylvania Turnpike in October 1938, and it opened to traffic in October 1940.

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Why was this stretch of the PA Turnpike abandoned?

Because the two 2-lane tunnels along this stretch of the turnpike caused severe traffic back-ups as vehicles on the 4-lane highway had to merge to pass through them.
Information below from PA Turnpike exhibit at the State Museum in Harrisburg.
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When was this stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike abandoned?

A bypass around the tunnels and up over the mountains was opened in 1968.
Information below from PA Turnpike exhibit at the State Museum in Harrisburg.
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Is it legal to visit the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnike?

Yes – this section of road is slated to someday become the Pike 2 Bike Trail. Until then it is simply a non-maintained, use at your own risk trail.Exploring The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (12)

Was the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike built on top of an old railroad?

Yes it was – the Pennsylvania Turnpike was built on top of the started-but-never-completed South Pennsylvania Railroad, which was a joint partnership between famous businessmen of the day William Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie (pictured below in front of the Rays Hill Tunnel in 1884), Henry Clay Frick, and J.P. Morgan.Exploring The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (13)

Is it true that the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike was used to film a movie?

Yes – the 2009 post-apocalyptic survival flick “The Road” was filmed at several locations along the abandoned PA Turnpike, including the Rays Hill Tunnel.
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Is the Abandoned PA Turnpike open year-round?

Yes – even in the winter you can enjoy hiking along this unique trail.
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Exploring the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike

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Your exploration of the 13-mile-long abandoned PA Turnpike can take place on bike or by foot (no motorized vehicles allowed).

If you want to see the entire thing, it really makes no difference which end you start at.

(Video) Exploring the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnel

For the purposes of this write-up, I’m going to describe starting from the Breezewood parking area in the west.

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But you could just as easily start at the Sideling Hill parking area in the east.

Locating the Breezewood Parking Area on the Abandoned PA Turnpike

As mentioned previously, you can easily navigate to the Breezewood parking area using GPS coordinates 39.999862, -78.228380.

The dirt parking lot (pictured below) is located at the intersection of Route 30 and Tannery Road.

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Follow the gravel path uphill from the parking area to the abandoned PA Turnpike.

Getting to the Rays Hill Tunnel

By foot or by bike, the Rays Hill Tunnel is 1.5 miles from the Breezewood parking area.

The trip is relatively flat and easy to traverse.

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Just before reaching the Rays Hill Tunnel, you’ll cross over Mountain Chapel Road via the short bridge pictured below.

Once across the bridge, Rays Hill Tunnel comes into view.

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Exploring the Rays Hill Tunnel

At 0.67 miles long, the Rays Hill Tunnel was the shortest of the 7 original Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnels.

You enter the Rays Hill Tunnel from Bedford County in the west, and emerge in Fulton County to the east.

The image below, from the State Museum in Harrisburg, is what drivers would have seen approaching the tunnel from Breezewood in the 1940s.

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Fast forward to today, and here’s what you can expect.

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You’ll notice some of the asphalt and paint looks much fresher around the tunnel entrance.

Years after the Turnpike abandoned this section of highway, PennDOT used this road for training employees on paving techniques, line painting, rumble strip installation, and for testing new road reflectors.

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So don’t be surprised to see some of those features in this area around the tunnel.

Entering the Tunnel

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Before you enter the Rays Hill Tunnel, let me give you a few tips.

Tip #1 – there is LOTS of graffiti!

Some of it tame, some very graphic and anatomically impossible in nature.

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So if you have little kids with you, be prepared for some awkward questions and answers!

Tip #2 – it’s chilly in there!

Even in the summer you may want a hoodie or light jacket if you get cold easily.

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Tip #3 – it’s dark in there!

While the rays Hill Tunnel is the shorter of the two abandoned tunnels on this trail, it’s still more than half a mile long.

So bring a flashlight or headlamp – you’re cellphone light won’t cut it.

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Office at the Western Portal

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There are small offices at the eastern and western portals of both tunnels along this trail.

The office at the western portal of the Rays Hill Tunnel is open to easy entry, but there isn’t a whole lot to see.

Other than tons of graffiti and trash.

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Still, if you’re an “urban explorer”, you’ll want to check this series of small rooms out.

Inside the Tunnel

There is no artificial light inside the Rays Hill Tunnel, but you can see one end from the other.

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The photo above is illuminated by the glow of a red headlamp (easier on the eyes in dark environments).

As you make your way through and reach the eastern side (and Fulton County), you see the wide-open office entrance at that portal.

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(Video) Exploring the Abandoned PA Turnpike | 150 Year Old Tunnels

The office window here makes for a great photo-op.

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More graffiti dominates the walls here as well.

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Looking towards the east, you can see Sideling Hill in the distance, home of the second tunnel on this excursion.

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An easy scramble to the top of the Rays Hill Tunnel gives you a more birds-eye view of the abandoned PA Turnpike.

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One interesting feature of the eastern portal of the Rays Hill Tunnel is that it is the only portal on any of the original Turnpike tunnels that does not have a ventilation fan on top of it.

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Here’s how the same view shortly after the completion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1940.

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At this point you’ve traveled 2 miles along the abandoned PA Turnpike.

If you choose to continue eastward, you can expect to be at the Sideling Hill Tunnel in another 9 miles.

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Or you can reverse course and retrace your steps back to the parking area along Tannery Road.

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From there it’s an easy 15 minute drive to the opposite end of the abandoned PA Turnpike (near the current-day Sideling Hill Service Plaza), followed by a short 1.1 mile walk to the abandoned Sideling Hill Tunnel.

Locating the Sideling Hill Parking Area on the Abandoned PA Turnpike

As mentioned previously, you can navigate to the Sideling Hill parking area at GPS coordinates 40.048790, -78.095869.

The parking area is located just off of Pump House Road, at the end of what looks like a dirt driveway.

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The parking lot itself is actually part of the abandoned Turnpike.

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Getting to the Sideling Hill Tunnel

The trip from the parking area to the Sideling Hill Tunnel is roughly 1.1 miles, with an ever-so-slight-uphill grade to it.

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Along the way you will pass the former Cove Valley Service Plaza, now just a large paved area that was used for a time after the closure of this section of the Turnpike as a State Police shooting range.

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The old buildings and gas pumps at Cove Valley are now being swallowed up by the Earth.

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Approximately 0.5 miles past the old travel plaza you will catch your first glance of the Sideling Hill Tunnel.

Exploring the Sideling Hill Tunnel

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The Sideling Hill Tunnel was the longest of the original seven Turnpike tunnels, at 1.3 miles in length.

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Because of the tunnel’s length and the slight arc in the tunnel (to allow for proper drainage and prevent ponding water in the center), it is impossible to see one end from the other.

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That means that the Sideling Hill Tunnel is VERY dark inside, the closer you get to the center.

It does, however, make for some fantastic backlit photo-ops, if you bring your own spotlights.

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As with the Rays Hill Tunnel, the walls of the Sideling Hill Tunnel are a virtual museum of graffiti, ranging from the mild to the wild to the downright profane.

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If you’re easily offended, you might want to keep your light focused on the road at your feet and ignore the tunnel walls.

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After what seems like forever, you’ll emerge from the western end of the Sideling Hill Tunnel.

The Western Portal of the Sideling Hill Tunnel

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The western portal is heavily graffitied and features an office you can easily enter.

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The office doors on this side of the tunnel offer up another great photo-op.

(Video) Exploring the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike

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Looking back towards the east, the darkness inside the tunnel is complete.

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Making your way back through the Sideling Hill Tunnel to the eastern portal, one more adventure awaits on top of the tunnel itself.

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The Ventilation Room

An obvious trail up the left side of the tunnel leads to the entrance of the ventilation room on top.

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Massive fans on top of the tunnels helped force fresh air in and exhaust fumes out.

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As with the tunnel walls, the ventilation room is heavily graffitied and quite popular with urban explorers looking to leave their mark.

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Just off to the side of the ventilation room is the old control room.

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From here operators monitored the carbon monoxide levels in the tunnel and adjusted the airflow and fans accordingly.

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Holes in the roof mean that even indoors, the floor can be quite muddy.

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A stairway behind the fans leads to the ventilation shafts above the tunnel.

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These fans have been silent for more than 50 years, but the roar must have been deafening up close.

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As with everything in the tunnels and along the entire length of the abandoned PA Turnpike, enter at your own risk and use extreme caution.

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Exploring the Abandoned PA Turnpike in the Winter

For a truly unique experience, try hiking (or cross-country skiing) the Abandoned PA Turnpike in the winter!

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The starkness of the snow-covered landscape adds an even more apocalyptic vibe to the trail.

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Be sure to dress warmly – the tunnels are quite chilly in the winter.

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So chilly, in fact, that you may even encounter ice formations hanging from the roof!

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Final Thoughts on the Abandoned PA Turnpike

The abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike lives up to the hype!

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It is arguably the most famous abandoned attraction in Pennsylvania, and certainly the largest at 13 miles long.

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The only thing that comes close to this, in my experience, is the Abandoned Trolley Graveyard in neighboring Somerset County.

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Unlike the trolley graveyard, the abandoned PA Turnpike is easy to legally access and safer to explore.

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Graffiti is omnipresent, and some of it is pretty graphic (and not pictured in this write-up).

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So if inquisitive kids are part of your crew, be ready to answer some awkward questions.

Someday this may indeed become an “official” rail trail, with lighted tunnels and regular maintenance.

According to the official Fulton County website “The vision for the Pike2Bike trail project is to develop an 8.5-mile section of the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike located in both Fulton and Bedford Counties into a destination, multi-purpose trail. Based upon the RTC study findings and independent web research, if developed and promoted, the Pike2Bike 8.5-mile, two-tunnel trail is likely positioned to be the largest and longest former road-use, two-tunnel trail in the country-boasting over 10,500 feet of through-tunnel experience.”

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Personally, I have my doubts.

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The amount of money and labor needed to make these tunnels “safe” enough to insure would be enormous.

(Video) Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike exploring

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And honestly, I think the “wow” factor would be diminished.

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We have plenty of “maintained” hiking / biking paths and tunnels in the state.

The Big Savage Tunnel on the nearby Great Allegheny Passage being one of them.

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I’m all for enjoying the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike just the way it is.

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And now you know everything you need to know to do the same!

Want to see a cool video about the Abandoned PA Turnpike?

Check this out!

Looking for more abandoned sites in Pennsylvania?

The Abandoned Sideling Hill POW Camp in Fulton County is literally within a few hundred yards of the Sideling Hill Tunnel along the Abandoned PA Turnpike, and the two share a common thread you’ll want to read about.

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The Abandoned South Penn Railroad Aqueduct in Fulton County was built at the same time the Sideling Hill Tunnel was first being bored as a proposed railroad tunnel, in the 1880s.

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Concrete City in Luzerne County is an abandoned early-1900s industrial housing complex.

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Now owned by the city/taxpayers of Nanticoke, Concrete City is equally fascinating and forlorn.

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The Abandoned Nuclear Jet Engine Bunkers in the Quehanna Wild Area are a Cold War-era piece of history tucked away in Cameron County.

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The Abandoned Trolley Graveyard in Somerset County, as mentioned earlier, is a privately-owned, invitation-only attraction right out of a sci-fi movie!

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The abandoned Kunes Camp is an easy 2 mile out-and-back hike to the ruins of a hunting camp built BETWEEN massive boulders on the Quehanna plateau.

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The abandoned Alvira munitions bunkers are 149 concrete, dome-shaped structures constructed in Union County during WWII to store TNT that was also manufactured on-site.

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Exploring the Ghost Town of Scotia Near State College takes you inside the remains of a iron-mining boomtown gone bust.

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Nearby Attractions

“The 7 Best Scenic Overlooks in the Buchanan State Forest” will give you maps and directions to some of the most scenic vistas in the forests surrounding the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

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Cowans Gap State Park is close to the Sideling Hill trailhead of the Abandoned PA Turnpike, and in my write-up “The 7 Best Things to Do at Cowans Gap State Park” you’ll get an overview of the highlights there.

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The Bedford Coffee Pot is one of the last “roadside giants” along the Lincoln Highway, America’s first coast-to-coast highway.

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Built in 1927 as a gimmick to get motorists to stop for food and fuel, the Bedford Coffee Pot is located a half-hour west of the Breezewood access to the Abandoned PA Turnpike.

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Dunkle’s Gulf Station along the Lincoln Highway in Bedford is an art deco-styled throwback to the early days of American automobile travel.

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The Fort Bedford Museum explains the history of Bedford County on the site of a British fort originally built in 1758.

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Looking to make your trip to the Abandoned PA Turnpike even more epic?

Rent a one-of-a-kind vacation home near the Breezewood trail head!

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Check out ALL of the fantastic rental homes available near the Bedford County end of the Abandoned PA Turnpike at the Vrbo link below.

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FAQs

Can you drive on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

The Breezewood section of the Abandoned PA Turnpike. Your exploration of the 13-mile-long abandoned PA Turnpike can take place on bike or by foot (no motorized vehicles allowed).

How do you get on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

There are three access points to the public section of the abandoned highway: The intersection of Tannery Road and US 30 is just east of the Breezewood interchange where I-70, US-30, and I-76 meet. It sits near the western end of the abandoned turnpike, which can be reached by climbing a small hill.

Is the abandoned PA Turnpike still open? ›

The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike is not officially open, but the public can go there on an "at your own risk" basis. The eastbound lanes of the abandoned turnpike west of Ray's Hill tunnel. Although closed since 1968, this stretch of pavement between tunnels is in good condition. *Many thanks to Ms.

Where are the abandoned PA Turnpike tunnels? ›

The eastern end of Sideling Hill Tunnel is located just downhill from the current Pennsylvania Turnpike, with the tunnel running directly under the road. Like Rays Hill Tunnel, it was originally built in 1881 for trains, opened to vehicular traffic in 1940, and was bypassed in 1968.

How do I get to the abandoned turnpike tunnel? ›

The most direct route there is via the turnpike to Breezewood, then backtracking east on Route 30 (the Lincoln Highway). After climbing Sideling Hill, Route 30 drops back down the mountain and it is at the base where Pump Station Road breaks off and heads north.

Why is the Pennsylvania Turnpike abandoned? ›

But in 1968, a decision was made to widen the highway, including the tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Unfortunately, there was a section that was unable to be widened due to issues at the Rays Hill Tunnel and Sideling Hill Tunnel. The result is a 13-mile section called the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Are there tunnels on I 70 in PA? ›

The Allegheny Tunnel is located in Allegheny and Stonycreek Townships, Somerset County along the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-70/76), a limited access highway, approximately 13 miles East of Exist 110 (Somerset, PA) and 23 miles West of Exit 146 (Bedford, PA).

How many tunnels are on the original Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

When the PA Turnpike opened, it was just 160 miles long stretching from Carlisle to Irwin. It included two-lane tunnels, but the rapidly increasing traffic volumes soon made the two-lane tunnels obsolete and prompted consideration of by-passing or "double tunneling" the seven original tunnels.

How many tunnels are on the PA Turnpike? ›

The highway crosses the Appalachian Mountains in the central part of the state, passing through four tunnels.

What is the longest tunnel on the PA Turnpike? ›

Sideling Hill Tunnel is 6,782 feet (2,067 m) long. It was the longest of the original tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
...
Sideling Hill Tunnel.
Overview
LocationBlueridge Mountain Fulton County, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40.048056°N 78.129167°W
StatusAbandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike Currently Pike2Bike Trail
CrossesSideling Hill
13 more rows

What happened to Breezewood PA? ›

In the 1960s, Breezewood became the junction of the Turnpike and the new Interstate 70. Later renumbered exit 12, it is now exit 161 on the Turnpike following a change to mileage-based exit numbering.

Is Rays Hill Tunnel open? ›

Rays Hill Tunnel: Abandoned In 1968, One of the Three Original Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnels To Be Abandoned 3,532 feet (1,077 m) long. Sideling Hill Tunnel: Abandoned In 1968, One of the Three Original Pennsylvania Turnpike Tunnels To Be Abandoned 6,782 feet (2,067 m) long.

How long is Rays Hill Tunnel? ›

Rays Hill Tunnel is 3,532 feet (1,077 m) long. It was the shortest of the seven original tunnels on Pennsylvania Turnpike. Due to its short length, it only contains ventilation fans at its western portal.

How long is Blue Mountain tunnel? ›

It is one of seven tunnels completed for the Pennsylvania Turnpike mainline, and at 4,339 ft (1,323 m) in length, is the shortest of the four still in use today.

How long is Sideling Hill tunnel? ›

Sideling Hill Tunnel is 6,782 feet (2,067 m) long. It was the longest of the original tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Ray's Hill Tunnel and Sideling Hill Tunnel are now part of the Pike2Bike Trail.

How long is Allegheny Mountain Tunnel? ›

Allegheny Mountain Tunnel
Overview
Length6,070 feet (1,850 m)
No. of lanes4 (two in each direction)
Highest elevation2,314 feet (705 m)
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How did they build the Lehigh Tunnel? ›

It was built by crews drilling into the mountain, building a steel structure when they cleared out debris and repeating until they reached the other side, according to a 2017 Morning Call analysis of the tunnel's history. The 4,300-foot Lehigh Tunnel was actually the turnpike's second through Blue Mountain.

Is there construction on the Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

Construction Activities

The Center Road bridge is currently being replaced and anticipated completion is Fall of 2022.

Who built the PA Turnpike? ›

This aborted venture of Vanderbilt has become known as “Vanderbilt's Folly.” The semi-constructed railroad lay unused for over 30 years, until William Sutherland of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association and Victor Lecoq of the State Planning Commission decided the PA Turnpike was to be built in the 1930s from ...

How long is the Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

How many tunnels are left on the Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

See a related story for more information on the Turnpike tunnels and the three abandoned tunnels: Laurel Hill Tunnel, Rays Hill Tunnel and Sideling Hill Tunnel.

Does PA Turnpike have speed cameras? ›

Cameras are located in various work zones to detect and record vehicles exceeding work zone posted speed limits by 11 miles per hour (mph) or more. This program was started in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP).

Are there still tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike? ›

The Sideling Hill By-pass opened on November 26, 1968, sending both the Ray's Hill and Sideling Hill tunnels into retirement. Portions of the vacated highway and the tunnels themselves still exist today and are used by the PA Turnpike for testing and research.

Can you turn around on the PA Turnpike? ›

601.9 U-Turns

The making of a U-turn on the Turnpike System is prohibited except by authorized vehicles. A driver of a motor vehicle may reverse direction of travel only by passing through an interchange and paying the fare.

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