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

But the Pennsylvania Turnpike hasn't been completely forgotten.

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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.

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

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

 
 
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A bicyclist pauses after passing through the Rays Hill Tunnel.

 
 
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The road surface is slowly being reclaimed by vegetation.

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

 
David Kidd is a photojournalist and storyteller for Governing. He can be reached at dkidd@governing.com.
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