You think I'm kidding?

I'm not.

Yes Virginia, you can visit the abandoned Turnpike. If you're going to take the time to travel there, especially if you are going to travel a significant distance, taking a little care to plan your visit could make a big difference.
 

Accessing the abandoned Turnpike

After many visits, I've found three simple ways to access the Turnpike right-of-way.

The Breezewood end
From the East or West (via PA Turnpike)
Get off of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-70/I-76) at Exit 161 (Breezewood). After paying the toll, follow the access road toward town, and then turn right onto US 30 East. Almost immediately, you will come upon a Ramada Inn on the right. Just beyond the Ramada are two steep gravel banks, remnants of the now removed Turnpike overpass. The Abandoned Turnpike heads east (to the left) from this point.

From the South (via I-70)
Follow I-70 West into Breezewood. When you reach the intersection with US 30, turn right onto US 30 East. Almost immediately, you will come upon a Ramada Inn on the right. Just beyond the Ramada are two steep gravel banks, remnants of the now removed Turnpike overpass. The Abandoned Turnpike heads east (to the left) from this point.

A word of caution
From this point, head east (away from the active Breezewood interchange). Tecnically, SAC's property ends at US 30. The section to the west (where the concrete barriers are stored) is still the property of the PTC, and they don't want people in that area. I was approached and questioned by a state trooper when I was looking around there, and I was advised to stay east of that point.

Ray's Hill is about two miles east from that point.
 

The middle stretch
From the East or West (via PA Turnpike)
Get off of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-70/I-76) at Exit 161 (Breezewood). After paying the toll, follow the access road toward town, and then turn right onto US 30 East. Follow US 30 for about three miles. (You'll go up a steep grade and down the other side.) When you reach the intersection with PA 915 (PA 915 South will be on your right), turn left onto the gravel road. The road passes underneath the current Turnpike. On the other side of the underpass, bear right and follow the gravel road (Oregon Road) down the hill. The road runs parallel and very close to the abandoned Turnpike for some distance, and several clearings provide opportunities to park your car and walk onto the abandoned Turnpike.

From the South (via I-70)
Follow I-70 West into Breezewood. When you reach the intersection with US 30, turn right onto US 30 East. Follow US 30 for about three miles. (You'll go up a steep grade and down the other side.) When you reach the intersection with PA 915 (PA 915 South will be on your right), turn left onto the gravel road. The road passes underneath the current Turnpike. On the other side of the underpass, bear right and follow the gravel road (Oregon Road) down the hill. The road runs parallel and very close to the abandoned Turnpike for some distance, and several clearings provide opportunities to park your car and walk onto the abandoned Turnpike.

At that point, you are between the two tunnels: Ray's Hill is about three miles west and Sideling Hill is about two miles east.
 

The Cove Valley end
From the East (via PA Turnpike)
Get off of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-76) at Exit 180 (Fort Littleton). After paying the toll, turn left onto US 522 South. Follow US 522 for almost eight miles. When you reach US 30, turn right onto US 30 East. Follow US 30 for almost ten miles. At the Village of Saluvia turn right onto Pumping Station Road. Pumping Station Road winds on for about three miles. Two gravel banks mark the location of a former Turnpike overpass (now demolished). Turn left onto the service road that immediately follows. Park along the road and walk toward Cove Valley.

From the West (via PA Turnpike)
Get off of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-70/I-76) at Exit 161 (Breezewood). After paying the toll, follow the access road toward town, and then turn right onto US 30 East. Follow US 30 for about seven miles. At the Village of Saluvia, turn left onto Pumping Station Road. Pumping Station Road winds on for about three miles. Two gravel banks mark the location of a former Turnpike overpass (now demolished). Turn left onto the service road that immediately follows. Park along the road and walk toward Cove Valley.

From the South (via I-70)
Follow I-70 West into Breezewood. When you reach the intersection with US 30, turn right onto US 30 East. Follow US 30 for about seven miles. At the Village of Saluvia, turn left onto Pumping Station Road. Pumping Station Road winds on for about three miles. Two gravel banks mark the location of a former Turnpike overpass (now demolished). Turn left onto the service road that immediately follows. Park along the road and walk toward Cove Valley.

Another word of warning
Pumping Station Road marks the eastern end of the SAC property, and the PTC still owns the road beyond this point. The active Turnpike joins the abandoned section about a mile east of the overpass, and like the western end, you would probably be well advised to stay on SAC terrirory.

Sideling Hill is about a mile west of the Cove Valley Service Plaza.

Turnpike trip tips

Remember, the entire abandoned section is over 10 miles, so walking from end to end may take quite a while. If you have the ability to bring a bike, that would be a good option; you can see a lot more in less time. A mountain bike is preferable over a more dainty street bike because of the condition of the pavement. I should also mention that no cars or motored vehicles are allowed on the abandoned Turnpike. That includes ATVs and motor bikes; if a state trooper or forest ranger catches you with one, it could be confiscated.

There is no way to get from one end to the other without going through the tunnels. Even manly men who chew tobacco may find themselves getting a little weak-kneed when they're staring into the depths of these concrete monsters. Don't worry about a cave-in, because recent engineering studies have indicated that the tunnels are perfectly sound. You don't have to worry much about animals, either, but bats do show up occasionally. I'd recommend bringing the strongest lantern that you can get ahold of. Ray's Hill may not be much of a challenge. You can see from one end to the other. Sideling Hill is a different story. It's more than a mile long, and when you are in the middle, you can't see either end—you can't see your hand in front of your face.

You would probably be better off to leave the ventilation shafts to your imagination. At each tunnel portal (except the eastern portal at Ray's Hill), a door in the side of the tunnel leads to a maintenance room and a ventilation shaft. I was very fortunate at the Fall 2004 SWPA Roadgeek Meet to have a group of people and an official escort with me as I toured these areas, but I wouldn't adventure inside alone. There are crumbling stairways, large openings in floors, and too many opportunities to get seriously hurt. If you are curious and want to have a look inside, see the article I wrote about the meet.

Bring a friend or some other type of non-hostile acquaintance with you if possible. You can visit the abandoned Turnpike alone—I have— but there are plenty of good reasons to go with someone else. The abandoned Turnpike is very remote, and no one would know if something happened to you. Whether you have someone with you or not, make sure to keep your cell phone with you, and leave it on so that you can dial quickly if needed. In fact, dial 9-1 and keep your finger poised over the 1 the entire time. (Maybe that's a little too alarmist.)
 

General warnings and denials

Now that the SAC owns the abandoned Turnpike, you can access the right-of-way without worrying about police harassment. However, be warned that the PTC still owns the eastern and western ends, and they use these areas for storage. If a state trooper sees you in one of these areas, he or she will probably question you and tell you to keep away from the PTC-owned sections.

There are overpasses, rusted stakes, open drainage ditches, and lots of other little hazards scattered across the abandoned Turnpike. Use common sense, take someone with you, and be careful. It is very possible to enjoy yourself and get out alive.

 

© 2006 Brian Troutman. All rights reserved. This site looks much better on a Mac.