Clear Ridge Tunnel:
"The One the Turnpike Planners Forgot to Build"

CLEAR RIDGE TUNNEL -- they never built it.  Instead, they dynamited the ridge out of the way.

According to this map (circa 1938-1939) that I found on an archive website, as well as in the Mitch Dakelman/Neal Schorr book entitled Images of America:  The Pennsylvania Turnpike, the eighth originally considered tunnel would have been the Clear Ridge Tunnel. 


The passage of the turnpike over State Route 26 ("The Cathedral Culvert" as the locals sometimes call it), south of Everett and north of Earlston, PA.

My research has not confirmed the official length of the proposed tunnel, though it would probably have been shorter than the Ray's Hill Tunnel.  Instead of boring a tunnel through Clear Ridge, an extremely large cut of land was removed to make a path for the roadway.  More than one million cubic yards of rocks and dirt were dynamited out of the cut and hauled away.  Most of the dirt was used to fill in smaller valleys along the Clear Ridge. 

 
Scanned from an old postcard - an artist's rendition of the Clear Ridge Cut.  Printed in the 1940's.

The cut was 153 feet deep and traversed a distance of a half mile.  This is why I believe Clear Ridge Tunnel would have been shorter than Ray's Hill and been approximately 2600-2800 feet in length, depending on the boring route that would have been chosen.  The tunnel may have been as short as 2000 feet because the "cut" through the ridge includes curves as well as straight roadway. 


An aerial view of the Clear Ridge Cut, 1994.

Sources on the Internet refer to the Clear Ridge cut as "Little Panama," although the amount of rocks and dirt removed from the Panama Canal zone was about 200 times greater.  According to Mr. Dakelman and Mr. Schorr's book, the Clear Ridge Tunnel's proposed location vanished from the 1940 maps of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.


Source unknown, probably from a postcard series related to the previous picture, though
I do not know for sure as I do not own this one.  This appears to be an artist's rendition
like the previous picture.  It makes you appreciate the work it took for the construction
crews to clear out all of that rock and soil to make way for the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

I wonder if the Clear Ridge Tunnel had been built instead of the giant cut through the area of the tunnel, would it have been bypassed or widened to four lanes in the 1960's when all of the original tunnels were either twin-bored or bypassed?  I wonder if we, as interested explorers, would be riding our bikes legally through an unused tunnel at Clear Ridge today as we do with Ray's Hill and Sideling Hill ... or if we would be sneaking around trying to figure out what is going on inside an abandoned, but still used, tunnel (Laurel Hill) ...

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This page was created on:  September 15, 2005.  
Last updated on:  August 09, 2014.

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