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Breezewood?

July 3, 2005, 10:00 PM

Yes, Breezewood. Specifically, Breezewood, Pennsylvania, which is known as the “town of motels”. I’m considering going up to Breezewood to do a photo set on the abandoned alignment of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which is now owned by the Southern Alleghenies Conservancy and being turned into the “Superhighway Trail”. This alignment includes the old Rays Hill and Sideling Hill tunnels, among other things.

You may recall that I traveled through Breezewood in 2003, as part of an LPCM trip. Photos and movies here. At that time, we used Breezewood as many others do, which is as a connection between the free I-70 and tolled I-76 (there is no direct connection between the two highways). In fact, that’s how Breezewood came into its modern existence.

According to this article, “…Breezewood is the unintended consequence of decisions having nothing to do with it.” Basically, to build a direct interchange between I-70 and I-76 at Breezewood, if federal funding was to be used to build a direct connection, then the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission would have to stop collecting tolls when the bonds funding the connection were retired. To quote the article again:

Under Section 113(b) [of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956], Federal-aid funds could be used for approaches to any toll road, bridge, or tunnel “to a point where such project will have some use irrespective of its use for such toll road, bridge, or tunnel.”

In other words, drivers could not be dumped onto the toll road and be made to pay. They are provided the choice of taking the toll road or leaving it. Now the alternative would be if the Turnpike Commission wanted to fund their own direct connection, but this was declined as well. So as a result, I-70 as a freeway ends at a traffic signal at Breezewood, and for a quarter mile, follows US 30 through Breezewood to meet the turnpike.

Now the area I’m interested in is actually near Breezewood, and the motels at Breezewood would make the perfect jumping-off point (i.e. stay at one of the motels overnight, then do the trail bright and early in the morning). As you know, I’ve done vintage stuff before on here. The best example is the Afton Mountain photo set. This abandoned section of the turnpike sounds like something that would be really fun to do, and would be something out of the ordinary for me. Currently, all my Photography sets were done in Virginia or Washington DC. Pennsylvania would be something new and exciting.

Before I jump at this, however, I do need to do a little more research on it first. While I know that the trail is open to the public, what I need to know for sure is whether or not it is open to motor vehicles, or just for foot traffic and cycling? If that question is yes, then that would make my life so much easier. It appears, based on this site, that it is, but one must make sure. And then if that is the case, what condition is the road in inside the Rays Hill and Sideling Hill tunnels? Considering that both tunnels are completely dark inside, and Sideling Hill is more than a mile long, the idea of a flat tire inside a tunnel is more fun than I want to have.

All in all, if it happens, I think it will be a fun trip. I’m considering doing it some time this fall, after my vacation to the beach, after the weather cools off a little bit.

Web site: Bike The Pike 2 - My inspiration for this trip, though I'm not getting on a bicycle myself unless I absolutely have to.

Song: Don't really have one, believe it or not.

Quote: "Do you think I could pull Breezewood off in a day, or should I do two?" - Me musing about the possibilities.

Categories: Places, Roads