The abandoned portion of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, dubbed “America’s first superhighway,” lies near the Ohio border, just east of the heavily trafficked Breezewood interchange for 1-70 (what is now 1-76 exit 161). In 1968, an extra stretch of highway was installed to relieve traffic, leaving the Sideling Hill Tunnel and the Rays Hill Tunnel abandoned. 40 years later, the picturesque road is still open to the public, but it’s also being used some interesting purposes.
If you decide to take the trek out to Western PA for summer vacation, here are a few tidbits to fuel your adventurous spirit (aside from the delightful fact that you won’t have pay for any of this, unless you count your resulting physical injuries as payment):
1. Surrounded by mystery and local suspicion, the Laurel Hill Tunnel is rumored to once have been used by NASCAR as a secret testing facility.
Right now, the tunnel is supposedly being leased by a private racing facility as a testing center for racecars, so discover the “deserted” site at your own risk, but please try to avoid being pummeled by the undercarriage of INSERT SECRET NASCAR DRIVER’S NAME HERE.
2. The Road, the 2009 post-apocalyptic film based on Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, was filmed at Sideling Hill. If you look closely, the tunnel portal can be seen in the background. Not pictured: You uncovering a stolen treasure in the depths of the mysterious abandoned tunnel.
Hey, if celebrities like Viggo Mortensen and Charlize Theron can venture through this cryptic path, you can, too!
3. Before rumble strips were commonplace, PennDOT used the abandoned highway to test them out and train workers. Some say say you can still hear the obnoxious sound of rumble strips echo throughout the valley late at night.
4. The highway has been used for numerous military operations. The tunnels once allegedly housed military grade weapons, while some have speculated that the abandoned roadways were used for bomb testing. In fact, several X’s have been found drawn on the road, lending credence to this particular theory.
Similarly, the road was also used as a shooting range for the Pennsylvania State Police. Don’t worry—contrary to what the existing warning signs read, the turnpike has not been used as a shooting range since 2001, so we’re pretty sure you wont be caught by any stray bullets (but don’t sue us if you are).
5. Much of the historic, scenic road is currently open for public use, although motor vehicles are not allowed (some rule-breakers ride ATV’s along the deserted path) and certain portions of the road are closed to public use.