I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Whittier Tunnel

I didn’t know this was coming, and that was probably a good thing. The town of Whittier, where we were boarding a boat for a day on Prince William Sound, has been accessible by road since 2000. Before that, it could be reached only by boat or by railroad, the railroad access via a long narrow tunnel under Maynard Mountain.

Digging another tunnel would have been prohibitively expensive, so they just upgraded the existing tunnel so it could be used by either trains or cars. But not at the same time. And only in one direction; there’s just one lane so the traffic changes direction every hour.

It’s a claustrophobe’s nightmare. The tunnel looks like it was hewed out of the mountain by orcs; the walls and ceiling are rough stone, and you drive right on the train tracks for roughly two and a half miles (or ten years.) I wasn’t reassured by the regular appearance of safe rooms, to be used in case of fire or earthquake, or by the fact that after a train passes through, traffic has to wait while the tunnel ventilation system runs and makes the air inside breathable again.

It’s actually very impressive. But if I ever go back to Whittier, I think it will be by boat.

Above the line of cars waiting for the signal to enter the tunnel. And because we hadn't eaten in at least an hour, our wonderful tour team produced snack trays for us to nibble on while we waited.

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