The following page is being set up to answer many frequently asked questions (FAQ). 

As FAQs arise, I will add the answers to this page. 

Please email the webmaster  if you have questions that are not answered here.  Thank you!   --  Ray


Table of Contents

  1. When were the Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels abandoned?

  2. Is it legal to access the abandoned turnpike and the tunnels?

  3. Who currents owns and controls the old roadway and the tunnels?

  4. Are the tunnels structurally safe to enter?

  5. Are the tunnels illuminated?

  6. Are cars, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc permitted for use on the trail and in the tunnels?

  7. Where exactly are the tunnels and the old turnpike roadway?

  8. Can you get permission to drive through the old tunnels?  Has anyone done so?

  9. Is Laurel Hill open to the public?

  10. What is Laurel Hill being used for these days?

  11. Are the tunnels within the range of cell phone coverage?

  12. Where is the western-most point of the old bypassed Ray's Hill-Sideling Hill route?

  13. Where is the eastern-most point of the old bypassed Ray's Hill-Sideling Hill route?

  14. What are the future plans for the tunnels and the old roadway?

  15. Will the Pennsylvania Turnpike ever open Laurel Hill Tunnel and its bypass to visitors and/or make it into a public park/trail like the other abandoned turnpike is?

  16. I have heard that the P.T.C. is going to remove two bridges on the Breezewood area bypassed roadway. 
    How will this affect the S.A.C. property?


When were the Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnels abandoned?

The Laurel Hill Tunnel, along with the bypassed section of roadway, was abandoned in 1964. 

The Ray's Hill Tunnel, Sideling Hill Tunnel and connecting roadway was bypassed in 1968.

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Is it legal to access the abandoned turnpike and the tunnels?

YES.  Both the Ray's Hill and Sideling Hill tunnels are accessible to the public, as is most of the abandoned section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike that includes them. 

On the western end of the old roadway, you cannot travel beyond a section marked off with jersey barriers.  This section begins behind the Ramada Inn (Breezewood).  

On the eastern end of the old roadway, you cannot travel beyond Pump(ing) Station Road.  As with it's western counterpart, this end is clearly marked.  I have found the name of this road to be both "Pump Station Road" and "Pumping Station Road."   Which name it actually is does not matter.  It is still the eastern end of the S.A.C. property.

UPDATED 11/16/05:   Effective last month, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ordered and carried out the removal of the bridges of the old turnpike that crossed U.S. Route 30 in Breezewood, as well as the Pumping Station Road overpass at the eastern terminus of the old roadway.  By doing so, the P.T.C. has inconvenienced visitors to the western end of the old roadway, however they have now prevented two potential vehicular access points to the old roadway.  Since vehicular traffic by the public is strictly prohibited on the roadway and in the tunnels, this move will make the 10-mile stretch of the trail safer.

more information - click here.

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Who currents owns and controls the old roadway and the tunnels?

The Southern Alleghenies Conservancy owns and controls the old roadway and the tunnels (Ray's Hill and Sideling Hill ... NOT Laurel Hill).  The S.A.C. purchased the abandoned property from the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission in 2001 for $1.  

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Are the tunnels structurally safe to enter?

YES.  Ray's Hill tunnel and Sideling Hill tunnel have been recently declared  structurally sound and safe to enter. There are minor issues with cracking and rough spots on the roadway surface in the tunnels.  In the case of Sideling Hill, water seepage causes the tunnel to sometimes become impassable in the winter time due to ice buildup.  The S.A.C. is currently deciding how to prevent further damage inside the tunnels due to loose bits of concrete.  Visit their website to review their plans.

On a lighthearted note:  if you have been watching General Hospital during the month of November 2005, you may be thinking twice about taking a hike or bike ride through the abandoned tunnels on the old turnpike.  Do not worry!   General Hospital is big-time overplaying the story line about two trains colliding inside a half-century old tunnel, including explosions and parts of the tunnel collapsing.  Their story line is beyond belief. 

The abandoned turnpike tunnels are NOTHING like the fictionist  tunnel on the soap opera!

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Are the tunnels illuminated?

Neither the Ray's Hill nor Sideling Hill tunnels are illuminated.  Bring a strong flashlight with you.  An ordinary flashlight will not do a lot for you inside the tunnels.  Ray's Hill is short enough that you can see the light at the opposite end the entire way through.  Sideling Hill is over 6700 feet long and has a slightly raised crown in the middle.  This prevents you from seeing light at entire end of the tunnel when you are in the center.  Look at your local Wal-Mart store for a one or two million candlepower rechargeable flashlight.  They are under $20 and could prove useful for your adventure through the tunnels.

UPDATE - August 2005:  S.A.C. authorities are working on proposals and plans to illuminate Ray's Hill Tunnel with LED style lighting.  It will not be very bright inside but will provide a pleasant light and help visitors more safely pass through the tunnel.  If funding is available and the plan works for Ray's Hill, then Sideling Hill will also receive these low-voltage LED lights.

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Where exactly are the tunnels and the abandoned roadway?

Since the answer to this question seems to be everywhere on the Internet, I will not rehash all of the routes you would use to legally reach the Ray's Hill Tunnel or Sideling Hill Tunnel.  The best-written directions I find on the Internet are located on Brian Troutman's page.  You can find the exact web address in the "links" page on this website or visit www.briantroutman.com for further details.

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Can you get permission to drive through the old tunnels?  Has anyone done so?

The Southern Alleghenies Conservancy has permitted some people to drive through the old tunnels, however this is on an extremely limited basis.  This is mainly due to the fact that the trail has been open since 2001 to pedestrian and bicycle traffic.  No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.

In no situation that I can document, has anyone been given permission to drive the tunnels on their own or just because they are curious.  A group that has gotten permission to drive the tunnels, with a guide and representative of the S.A.C., is the SWPA.  Brian Troutman tells the story, including pictures, at his website.  Please visit his site -- you will really like seeing inside the work areas of the tunnels:  the rooms upstairs, the ventilation room, and the "tunnel above the tunnel."  If you have no idea what lies directly behind the face of the tunnel portals, Brian's site will enlighten you.

UPDATED 11/16/05:   Effective last month, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ordered and carried out the removal of the bridges of the old turnpike that crossed U.S. Route 30 in Breezewood, as well as the Pumping Station Road overpass at the eastern terminus of the old roadway.  By doing so, the P.T.C. has inconvenienced visitors to the western end of the old roadway, however they have now prevented two potential vehicular access points to the old roadway.  Since vehicular traffic by the public is strictly prohibited on the roadway and in the tunnels, this move will make the 10-mile stretch of the trail safer.

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Are cars, motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, etc permitted for use on the trail and in the tunnels?

NO.  Without prior special permission from the SAC authorities, no motorized vehicles are permitted on the trail or in the tunnels.  Stories are frequently told about people who have driven cars and trucks on the old turnpike.  Please note the many people illegally drove on the abandoned roadway prior to it being made available for public access.  Others have been granted special permission from the P.A. Turnpike authorities and/or the SAC.  These permissions are not commonly granted.

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Is Laurel Hill tunnel open to the public?   I have heard that you can and cannot enter it.

The Laurel Hill Tunnel and the bypassed section of roadway that connects to it are NOT open to the public and never have been Visitors to this area can be detained and fined as trespassers.  The Pennsylvania Turnpike still owns and privately leases out the Laurel Hill tunnel and the adjoining roadway.

Jeanmarie R. Ward responded to an e-mail that was sent to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, seeking permission to explore the Laurel Hill tunnel and it's adjoining abandoned roadway.  Please click here to read the reply that was received. 

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What is Laurel Hill being used for these days?

Go back to the home page of this website and click on the "current usage" tab under Laurel Hill Tunnel.  The answer has been found.

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Are the tunnels within the range of cell phone coverage?

While the author of this page has not personally tried using his cell phone along the old roadway, it has been commonly mentioned that cell phones do work in that area.  This is most likely due to the close proximity of the old roadway to the current routing of the turnpike.  Emergencies, accidents and break-downs on the modern routing of the turnpike are reported by cell phone using *11.

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Where is the western-most point of the old bypassed 
Ray's Hill-Sideling Hill route?

Part of the originally bypassed route is currently used for the Interstate 70 interchange.  The western-most point of the bypassed route that is legally accessible begins behind the Ramada Inn (Breezewood).  To access the old roadway, park in the rear of the building (they do allow you to do this but be respectful and park as far away as possible) and walk down the way to the old pavement.  From there, you may only legally walk east (left).  To the right (facing west) is the area that remains property of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.  This area is used for storing the concrete jersey barriers.  Beyond that point also is the connection to the modern alignment of I-70 and I-76.  The police and authorities do patrol this area and can cite you for trespassing. 

UPDATED 11/16/05:   Effective last month, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission ordered and carried out the removal of the bridges of the old turnpike that crossed U.S. Route 30 in Breezewood, as well as the Pumping Station Road overpass at the eastern terminus of the old roadway.  You can no longer reach the western terminus of the old turnpike by entering the roadway behind the Ramada Inn in Breezewood.

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Where is the eastern-most point of the old bypassed 
Ray's Hill-Sideling Hill route?

The eastern-most point that you may travel on the old roadway is Pumping Station Road.  This road passes under the abandoned roadway, east of the location of the old Cove Valley Travel Plaza.  The underpass is very narrow and littered with graffiti.  As with the western end of the abandoned roadway, jersey barriers block off access beyond this point.  The roadway east of Pumping Station Road  remains property of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.  This area is used for storing the concrete jersey barriers.  The police and authorities do patrol this area and can cite you for trespassing. 

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What are the future plans for the tunnels and the old roadway?

The Southern Alleghenies Conservancy recently announced their possible plans for the future improvements of the tunnels and abandoned roadway ...

Improvements that are said to be in the works include: 

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Will the Pennsylvania Turnpike ever open Laurel Hill Tunnel and its bypass to visitors?

This answer is strictly the opinion of your webmasterI doubt it.  

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I have heard that the P.T.C. is going to remove two bridges on the Breezewood area bypassed roadway.  How will this affect the S.A.C. property?

According to the official word on the S.A.C. website, the removal of the U.S. Route 30 overpass on the old turnpike in Breezewood, as well as the removal of the Pump(ing) Station Road overpass, will NOT affect access to the old roadway.  Apparently, the P.T.C. wants to remove these bridges for safety concerns and probably upkeep maintenance costs.  Both the P.T.C. and S.A.C. groups are working together on this project and will ensure that foot bridges or other pedestrian-safe crossings will be put into place for visitors to the old roadway and tunnels to use.

UPDATED 11/16/05:   Both bridges are now removed. 


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This page was created on:  June 7, 2005     (first page created for this website)
Last updated on:  August 09, 2014.

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