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When you’re outside of them, you wonder how they were built. When driving through them, you hope they were built well. Engineering marvels and logistical nightmares, tunnels provide transportation through mountains and rivers that once stood as boundaries to human advancement. Requiring the highest levels of both brains and brawn to build, tunnels are the arteries that connect America.
5 Baltimore Harbor Tunnel
The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel travels under the Patapsco River, acting as a conjunction between major highways that run north to south, as well as a dumping-off point for several smaller traffic arteries in the industrial areas of Baltimore. The tunnel, which is 7,392 feet long, has four lanes and opened in November of 1957. On the very first day that it was opened to the public, thousands of motorists poured into the tunnel, braving the then-40 cent toll, to travel north to Philadelphia for the annual Army-Navy football game.
4 The Ted Williams Tunnel
The first major hookup in Boston’s notorious “Big Dig,” the Ted Williams Tunnel connects South Boston with East Boston and Logan Airport. One of three tunnels under the Boston Harbor, it is the end point of the I-90 Massachusetts Turnpike. Portal to portal, it spans 8,500 feet. The project was fraught with controversy from its beginning in 1991 until it opened in 1995. After several catastrophes, including a roof collapse that killed a car passenger, the tunnel came with a final price tag of just under $2 billion.
3 Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel
Connecting South Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is the longest underwater vehicle tunnel in North America—and has been since it opened in 1950. At just under 10,000 feet, the tunnel travels under Governor’s Island at the mouth of the East River. With four pumping stations, air is completely changed out of the entire tunnel every 1 1/2 minutes. Material shortages during World War II dragged the project out over the course of a decade.
2 Eisenhower Tunnel
In the Colorado Rocky Mountains, 60 miles east of Denver on Interstate 70, lies the Eisenhower Tunnel. It’s the highest tunnel in the world with an average elevation of 11,112 feet. It runs through a terrain where the average annual snowfall from November to April is 26 feet. With two tunnels measuring just under 10,560 feet each, the Eisenhower Tunnel was finished in 1973. It spans two watersheds and the Continental Divide.
1 Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel
Deep in the Alaska wilderness, where the Chugach Eskimos have hunted for thousands of years, cars and trains take turns traveling through the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America. If you happen to be going from Portage to Whittier on the Portage Glacier Highway, the 13,300-foot tunnel into which you’ll descend is the first tunnel ever designed to withstand temperatures of 40 degrees below freezing and winds of 150 miles per hour.