Discovering the Mystique of the Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike: Breezewood's Secluded Historical Highway Gem

Nestled within a tranquil forest in south central Pennsylvania, near Breezewood, an intriguing historical remnant awaits discovery. Once a part of the USA's interstate network, a 13-mile (21 km) section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike was forsaken in the 1950s. This happened when modern bypasses, traversing over the mountains, replaced this stretch of road, as its single-lane tunnels were identified as the cause of severe traffic congestion.

Abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike

Located in the northern part of Fulton County, the road, initially paved and thrown open to the public in 1940, now stands as a silent testament to a bygone era. Many of the tunnels on this stretch of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were originally initiated for the South Penn Railroad in the mid-1800s but were never finished. This marvel of engineering and political accomplishment, named the Tunnel Highway, housed seven tunnels within its stretch.

Presently owned by the Nature Conservancy and officially off-limits to the public, motorized vehicles such as ATVs and dirt bikes are prohibited on this property. However, adventurous bicyclists may navigate this historical trail at their own risk, armed with helmets and lights for safety. The once bustling highway is undergoing a transformation into a scenic biking and hiking trail.

The forgotten interstate, quietly sitting in the heart of the woods, was an integral component of America’s first "superhighway". The stretch was abandoned in November 1968, when a more modern road was constructed to alleviate the congestion in the tunnels. Since then, it has been a sanctuary for nature's slow but persistent reclaim.

Today, the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike, as it is popularly known, is an unusual attraction hidden in plain sight. Despite millions of people traveling along the active Pennsylvania Turnpike through Bedford and Fulton Counties each year, only a few discover this forgotten marvel just a few hundred yards away. It runs parallel to the bustling modern turnpike, from Breezewood extending eastward. Astonishingly, the tunnels stand almost untouched, despite over 50 years of abandonment.

Where was The Road movie filmed?

This abandoned stretch, featuring three tunnels and a travel plaza east of Breezewood, has served a variety of purposes over the years. It has been used for turnpike worker training, military exercises, and even testing safety technologies like rumble strips, road reflectors, and guardrails. Its post-apocalyptic appearance landed it a starring role in the 2009 film "The Road", featuring Viggo Mortensen. In the movie, the protagonist and his son are forced to take refuge in Ray's Hill Tunnel, a part of the disused Pennsylvania Turnpike, as a hostile gang's truck emerges from it. Despite its quiet demeanor, the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike continues to stir curiosity and serve as an unusual testament to the passage of time.
Pic: Mat Weller