Search
(Photos by David Kidd)

It Was America’s First Superhighway. Now Much of It Sits Abandoned.

But the Pennsylvania Turnpike hasn't been completely forgotten.
by | September 2018

Known at the time as “America’s Super Highway,” the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in 1940 as the first limited-access highway in the country. Considered state of the art, it served as a model for the Interstate Highway System and other freeways. But the road’s popularity resulted in miles-long backups at its tunnels. (The turnpike was also known as the “tunnel highway” because it traversed seven tunnels.) To alleviate congestion, two additional tunnels were bored. Eventually, a 13-mile stretch of the turnpike was abandoned in favor of a more modern bypass that opened in 1968. But the old highway has not been completely forgotten. It’s been used as a roadway test site and a movie location. Not officially open to the public, it is popular with bikers, hikers and explorers.

 


Traffic used to back up for miles outside the Sideling Hill Tunnel, which narrows to one lane in each direction.

 
 


Large ventilation fans once kept carbon monoxide levels safe for motorists in the tunnels.

 
 


A bicyclist pauses after passing through the Rays Hill Tunnel.

 
 


The road surface is slowly being reclaimed by vegetation.

 
 


This farm, which is adjacent to the abandoned stretch of the turnpike, is no longer subjected to the roar of turnpike traffic.

 

MORE FROM Infrastructure & Environment

With Election Over, Transportation Advocates Eye 2019 Battles

Supporters of additional funding for transportation have plenty of reasons to smile after last week’s elections, but that doesn’t mean they can stop worrying.


As Federal Plan Nears, Florida Voters Say 'No' to Offshore Drilling

The Trump administration expects to release a new draft of the proposal to expand offshore drilling "by year's end." Meanwhile, Florida voters sent a message expressing their opposition.


Voters Reject, Again, What Would Have Been the Nation’s First Carbon Tax

For the second time in two years, Washington state voters opted not to tax greenhouse gas pollution.


Which states will vote on raising gas taxes this year?

Transportation Funding Changes Fail at the Ballot Box

Voters in Colorado, Missouri and Utah rejected new money sources for roads, while Californians opted to keep a recent gas tax hike.


The Road Funding Policy That Doesn't Improve Roads Much

Voters in Connecticut approved a transportation "lockbox." But historically, they do little to address transportation funding problems.


Hunter carrying a rifle and the bird he killed.

The Right to Hunt Is Now Constitutionally Protected in North Carolina

The state is the latest where voters have weighed in on the debate.