North America's Longest Highway Tunnel
Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
By: Courtney Dowd-Stanley
The longest highway tunnel in North America, Alaska’s Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is something extra spectacular. It is located just over an hour from the big city of Anchorage, by heading south on the Scenic Seward Highway. Turn onto Portage Glacier Road heading towards the town of Whittier, Alaska’s gateway to Prince William Sound (and also the place named “weirdest” town in the country). [caption id="attachment_19210" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Flickr - Atutu[/caption]
To access Whittier, visitors have to embark through this 2.5-mile-long tunnel. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in North America. It passes under Maynard Mountain and is part of the Chugach Mountains. [caption id="attachment_19213" align="aligncenter" width="996"] Flickr - Michael Hayes[/caption]
The first part of the tunnel route was constructed in the early 1900s by the military during World War II as a passage acting as the main supply route for goods to and from Whittier. After the 1960’s when the town of Whittier was abandoned by the military, the Alaska highway system inherited the tunnel. Original traditional tracks on sleepers were then replaced with a solid concrete path, making the rails flush with the surface of the road. This way, it could be multi-use. Read more about the fascinating history of North America's longest highway tunnel HERE. [caption id="attachment_19214" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Travis[/caption]
By June 7, 2000 as part of the Whittier Access Project, the entire path was finally completed. [caption id="attachment_19216" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Michael Hayes[/caption]
Many are shocked to learn that this unique tunnel is also the first designed for temps of -40 degrees Fahrenheit, and up to a staggering 150 mile-per-hour wind gusts. [caption id="attachment_19212" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Eli Duke[/caption]
This is a one-lane tunnel that vehicles and trains share, traveling in both directions (one of only a few total on the continent). [caption id="attachment_19215" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Michael Hayes[/caption]
Because trains and automobiles travel in both directions through the tunnel, this is also one of the only tunnels in the world that requires the use of jet turbine ventilation to air out the space between trips back and forth. [caption id="attachment_19211" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - NAParish[/caption]
The single-lane of vehicle traffic flows directly over the railroad track. This rare design and engineering is said to have saved tens of millions of dollars, as the only other alternative would have included the cost of constructing a whole separate tunnel. Travel Tip: Don't forget to soak in the views as you approach the tunnel, they are positively awe-inspiring! [caption id="attachment_19218" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Flickr - Gary Benson[/caption]
There is a small toll to take this tunnel route, so plan ahead and get ready for an adventure that you’ll never forget. Check out the YouTube video below for an up close & personal look at what it looks like venturing through this unique tunnel. https://youtu.be/Qu9TkGV-kMY
Looking for another great read? Check out, Alaska's Underground Permafrost Tunnel That's Hiding In Plain Sight. Or, these 10 Ridiculously Rare Alaska Attractions That You'll Be Blown Away By. You might also enjoy, Alaska's Unreal Upside-Down Forest at Glacier Gardens in Juneau, Alaska.
If you are living and loving The Alaska Life – share your adventures with us on our Facebook page HERE, and they might just end up being featured in one of our next blog posts.
Written by Courtney Dowd-Stanley
I had heard of this tunnel last summer where I worked as a driver in Denali. Unbelievable!!
I went through those tunnels in the winter of 64/65. Dark. Couldn’t see a thing. I walked to the caboose and stood outside and was there when we went between the tunnels. The moon was shining on the snow and it was breathtaking. You look right out at Portage Lake and glacier, which was all frozen at the time. Years later I made the trip by train from Anchorage to Fairbanks where my brother lived. I love trains.