Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike: Eerie Scenes on a Forgotten Highway

The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (Image: Jgera5. The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike)

Stretching across 13 miles of the Pennsylvania countryside is an unlikely sight, seemingly picked up out of any one of a number of post-apocalyptic tales. The Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike was used as a movie location for the 2009 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and according to Uncovering PA the stretch of abandoned highway has also occasionally served as a military training ground.

Map if the (Abandoned) Pennsylvania Turnpike (Image: Mr. Matté)

When the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940, it was quickly nicknamed the Tunnel Highway. There were seven tunnels along its length, but within a decade congestion had increased to a point where they had become choke points, causing major traffic flow problems. Congestion was later alleviated by the “twinning” of four tunnels (with new bores running parallel) and the closure of three others. In the case of the latter, a new bypass was built in 1968, leaving a disused 13 mile stretch that became known as the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Rumble strips testing on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (Image: Jgera5. Rumble strips testing)

In many ways, the tunnels are more interesting in their abandonment than their use as a part of the state’s highway system. Not only has the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike hosted military training exercises, it’s also been used to test new rumble strips and train maintenance workers. Parts of the old highway have even served as a shooting range for the Pennsylvania State Police. It was also considered as a weapons storage area.

(Image: Lildobe)

In 2015, Road and Track reported that the Laurel Hill Tunnel may have been owned by racing legend Chip Ganassi, and was in use for secret race testing. But when journalists dug deeper into the story, they reportedly found it difficult to glean information, both from Ganassi’s camp and the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

Rays Hill Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Laurel Hill Tunnel on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike (Images: Arthur Rothstein (1, 2). Rays Hill Tunnel and Laurel Hill Tunnel)

When driver Darren Manning finally agreed to discuss events on the lonely stretch of abandoned highway, he likened the unconventional test track (apparently for testing aerodynamic forces on a moving vehicle) to one of science fiction TV. “Have you ever seen the TV show Battlestar Galactica, when those spaceships were shot from a tube? That’s what testing in the tunnel was like,” he told Road and Track.

The abandoned Sideling Hill Tunnel (Image: Jgera5. Approaching the old Sideling Hill Tunnel)

UncoveringPA reports that some of the tunnels – like the 3,532-foot-long Rays Hill Tunnel, which was built for trains back in 1881 but never used – are blocked by gates that keep out the curious and protect the native bat population. The website also claims that the tunnels have a very creepy feel to them.

Site of the demolished Cove Valley Travel Plaza in PA (Image: Jgera5. Site of the demolished Cove Valley Travel Plaza)

The 6,800-foot-long Sideling Hill Tunnel, in particular, has such an eerie quality that it’s not hard to imagine you’re standing at the end of the world. The derelict tunnel is described as “more off-the-beaten path” than the others on the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike. It’s located beyond the spot where the Cove Valley Travel Plaza once stood, itself long vanished and marked only by a couple of discrete manhole covers.

(Image: SchuminWeb)

Related: Stub Streets & Ghost Ramps: The Abandoned Motorways of Britain


About the author: Debra Kelly




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