Lehigh Tunnels Twin Tubing 1989-1991

On April 1, 1957, 47 of the remaining 73 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Northeast Extension opened to traffic.  Included in the new highway was the 4,461 foot Lehigh Tunnel, a two lane tube through the Blue Mountain.  However by 1970, concerns over the levels of traffic through the 13 year old tunnel were growing.  Throughout the 1960's the Turnpike either twinned or bypassed the seven tunnels on the mainline system.  For over a decade, various proposals were introduced but tight economic times did not allow for proactive construction.  Finally, in 1985, Act 61 authorized new funding for the Pennsylvania Turnpike System.  The legislation approved funding for the twinning of the Lehigh Tunnels. Studies began almost immediately and construction began early in 1989.  Construction would last for nearly two and a half years, ending with the opening of the new facility on November 22, 1991.

Throughout the 32 months of construction, Bill Symons took photographs of the progress made.  He begins with an untouched south portal in 1989 to the tunnels a few weeks before opening in the fall of 1991.  The photos are another great contribution of his to the PA Turnpike Collection at PA Road Photos.



South Portal:

Excavation work can be seen on this 1989 shot approaching the southern portal of the Lehigh Tunnel.

If you were heading northbound on PA 9 in 1989 you would not see much of any sign of construction work entering the tunnel.  This photo gives an excellent perspective of how the highway narrowed to enter the tunnel.

Here is what the completed twin tubes look like nearly 20 years later.  (Doug Kerr, April 2007)


North Portal:

Be sure to notice the change in the hillside from this photo in 1989 and the following two.  Excavation work has begun and the concrete superstructure is beginning to take form.

Substantial Progress can be seen by the Autumn of 1990.  A wide double yellow line is all that separates the opposite direction of traffic entering and entering the tunnel.

The tunnel is near completion in this Fall 1991 photo.  The hillside has been landscaped and a cement slope and retaining wall has been built.  A temporary concrete barrier has also been placed to divide the north and southbound traffic.

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    Sources & Links:

  • Cupper, Dan. "The Pennsylvania Turnpike: A History.  55th Anniversary Edition."  Lebanon, PA: Applied Arts, 1995.
  • PA Turnpike History @ PAHighways.com ---Jeff Kitsko
  • Doug Kerr
  • Bill Symons

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    Page Created: June 29, 2003
    Last Updated: April 29, 2007

    © 2003-07 Adam Prince