Pennsylvania Roads - I-76 - Abandoned Tpk. EB 1

Abandoned Pennsylvania Tpk. (I-76), Breezewood
Eastbound page 1

Heading east in the westbound lanes, up to the gate and barriers that at one point were meant to keep traffic off of the road, at least motorized traffic. Now that there's no possible way to drive your vehicle onto this part of the Turnpike (unless you have a 4x4, in which case the gate doesn't bother you anyway), there's no real reason to have these up here, but that would be an expense, an expense that the Southern Alleghenies Conservancy would have to bear. Another expense would be to fix up the crumbling former eastbound lanes, seen in the third photo. Chances are Pike2Bike will pick one side to improve as a trail and leave the other to nature.

Through the first straightaway and up to the top of the first minor downgrade. Grades on the entire Turnpike, both then and now, are very gentle. Notice the varied types of underbrush (and in one case, overbrush) slowly claiming the edges of the highway.

Something should look fishy to you about this sudden section of good pavement with clear stripes, deep rumble strips, fresh warning grooves, and intact reflectors. Heck, this part of the Turnpike was abandoned long before I-76's lanes even got reflectors! Obviously, this is one long test section, leading right up to the Ray's Hill Tunnel. If you go and visit, it's even more obvious, because the entire roadway is about the width of one lane (the original left lane, on the right side of these photos, has been left to rot).

The westbound and eastbound sides of the Mountain Chapel Road underpass. The yellow paint was early Turnpike-ese for having a guiderail with yellow and white reflectors. Gotta love the original architecture of the railings.

Up to the foggy Ray's Hill Tunnel, which as a cave (however artificial) remains a constant temperature less than 60 degrees, so on a warm day you get this ghostly effect at the tunnel mouth. By the afternoon return ride, the fog had disappeared. The Tunnel used to have its name above either entrance (as did its partner, the Sideling Hill Tunnel), but the letters on both of them fell or were stolen long ago.

Through the concrete-surfaced two-lane tunnel, with center stripes still intact and good detail on the cracks between the pavement slabs. The reason this tunnel is abandoned is because the Turnpike Commission decided it was cheaper to just bypass Ray's and Sideling Hills rather than try to construct a second tunnel through each. Another good reason to abandon this tunnel is that Ray's Hill was the only one on the entire Turnpike system to be ventilated with one continuous plenum (trust me, if I had a better word, I'd use it here, it's the shaft on top of the tunnel), and I presume with only one ventilation fan. Because of this unique setup, it's impossible (such as I found) to explore the tunnel from the bottom up. It may be possible to approach it from the top and drop in, but I wasn't thinking so craftily.

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