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Whittier Tunnel

Whittier Tunnel

The Alaska Railroads Whittier tunnel is unique for these reasons; Longest highway tunnel in North America (13,300' or 2.5 miles).
Longest combined rail and highway use tunnel in North America.
First U.S. tunnel with jet turbine and portal fan ventilation.
First computerized regulation of both rail and highway traffic.
First tunnel designed for -40 F. and 150 mph winds.
Portal buildings designed to withstand avalanches
An unusual structure to see along with excellent info on the tunnel but 150 mph winds? That can't be common is it?
So cars drive on the rails, or do tracks and HWY run side by side?
To answer some questions....the tunnel has a decking that is at railtop level, there is only a gap for the flange of the railwheels to go into the surface. This way you can drive ontop of the tracks. It is single lane and controlled by time openings for the direction of travel. Every 500 feet or so there is a pullout with a safety shelter. My 1 ton dual wheel truck has about 2-3 feet on each side of the dual wheels for curb clearance on the road. At 2.5 miles in length even with the exhaust fans after a train goes through you have to turn off the air in you vehicle as the exhaust can be bad, if you get a really smokey locomotive and then some smokey tour busses in front of you the visibility is actually affected!I know! my wife does not like the smell of diesel (!) and plugs her nose sometimes! As a side note the Alaska Railroad bought its first two diesel locomotives for pulling trains through the tunnel as they had no ventalation in the tunnel untill the road was built into it in 2000. As far as the wind and avalanches, the tunnel is located between to geographicaly different areas with a narrow valley on one end and the end of a fjord at the other. This results in a high annual rain and snow fall (LOTS!) and very high winds during winter storms that are common, winds over 100MPH have been recorded and trains have derailed and blown off the tracks in the history of the RR( here is the reporting weather info


This has video/picture cameras showing entrance. For more info on the tunnel go here;


and here;


One other neat thing is that once a year you can walk through the tunnel on tunnel day but they require you to have a hard hat or bike helmet for the event!

sorry this is so long!
I drove through that tunnel on the last weekend it was free. Now they charge to drive through. When I was there, I would say the winds were at least 40 mph. It was unbelievably cold with that wind whipping.

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