The Suitcase Lady

Underground

September 24, 2013, 9:08 pm

I am a dedicated tunnelophile. I’ve been fascinated by tunnels since I was seven years old and took a trip out West on the fabled Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe Super Chief. The train went through many long tunnels cut through the Rockies. Being hurtled from brilliant desert sunshine into total darkness never failed to amaze me. To this day, I am always willing to detour in the direction of an interesting tunnel, especially ones I can drive through.

The longest car tunnel in the world at 15.23 miles is the Laerdal Tunnel in Norway. The final link in E16 connecting Oslo and Bergen, this super tunnel took five years to complete. The design is divided into four sections, separated by three large caves. The caves serve as turn around points, detriments to claustrophobia and rest spots. The tunnel roadway has white lights, the caves have blue lights with yellow on the edges to simulate sunrise. Tunnelophobes should find this soothing.

The scariest tunnels I have ever driven were in Italy in the cliffs above the Mediterranean. Many Italian drivers see no need to slow their 110mph speed when hitting the tunnel entrance; in fact, some speed up. Thrill seekers (of which I am not one) would adore this string of speed tubes.

The Ted Williams Tunnel under the Boston Harbor is my least favorite tunnel. Part of the “Big Dig”, it has various exits within the tunnel one of which connects to the airport. Make a mistake here and you can miss your plane.

The Gotthard Pass through the Swiss Alps is bilingual. Enter from the north portal and everyone is speaking German; exit to the south and the language has changed to Italian.

The eastern entrance to Pittsburgh on I-376 is the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. I love that name and tried without luck to find how the name originated. I always have images of squirrels cavorting over my head on the mountain as I drive through. I did discover the fact that because of its low height, Squirrel Hill Tunnel is notorious for trapping trucks thus creating tunnel chaos. A construction project to raise the ceilings began this June.

Below are images of the Laerdal Tunnel. A couple was so smitten with its eerie beauty that they had their wedding in one of the caves.

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