The work will take place from 8:45 pm to 6:30 am. Tunnel holing through ceremonies, November 20, 1942. [2], Originally, Seward had been the port for all of Southcentral Alaska. Later, the passage was used by Russian and American explorers, and by prospecting miners during the Klondike Gold Rush. This video is about motorcycling through the 2.5 mile long Whittier Tunnel in south-central Alaska. Whittier Tunnel History. Otto F. Ohlson, General Manager of the Alaska Railroad (left), shakes hands with Maj. Gen. Simon B. Buckner, Jr. (right), after holing through blast. Tunnel details can be found at the State of Alaska site HERE. Whittier Access Tunnel Whittier, Alaska. Driving through the two mile long, one lane Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is an interesting experience. From a camp at Portage Valley, Kukkola surveyed the south to the north end of the proposed Whittier Tunnel. Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel: When in Whittier, go through the tunnel. The earliest evidence of the Portage Valley being used for transportation dates back to early A.D, when the Inuit people used the flat, low-lying valley as a pass through the Chugach Mountains. A track through Kenai Peninsula’s neck was possible if the railroad bored beneath the mountains 13,005 feet through the eastern mass, 4,960 feet through the western. For further questions or information, please contact: Gordon S. Burton, Facility Manager Phone: 907-472-2584 Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities 5300 East Tudor Road Anchorage, Alaska 99507 Fax: 907-472-2533 It is a unique passage into and out of the town of Whittier and the gateway to Prince William Sound and all the fun it has to offer. The Whittier Access Tunnel was Alaska's first design-build transportation project. 11:00 - 11:15 pm Whittier to Bear Valley It is recommended that tunnel users be in the staging area at least 10 minutes prior to the scheduled opening to help us In 1998, the Whittier Tunnel, later renamed as the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, was modified to handle both railroad and vehicle traffic. During operating hours, 15 minutes of every hour are "reserved" for east-bound auto traffic, 15 minutes for west-bound auto traffic, and 30 minutes for train traffic (Alaska Railroad). This ice-free harbor is great for any avid boater. The walking tour map with short history is located at the P-12 Motor Pool building across the street from the pedestrian tunnel. The importance of a railroad route between Turnagain Arm and Passage Canal was realized much earlier by the builders of the Alaska Central Railway, but it was not until 1914 when a seven-man topographical party carefully mapped this route for the Alaskan Engineering Commission. Despite difficult working and living conditions and washed out bridges, West Construction Company crews completed the project six months ahead of schedule. On April 23, 1943 workers completed the spur, which consisted of a 1-mile tunnel through Begich Peak and a 2.5-mile tunnel through Maynard Mountain, thus linking Whittier to the Alaska Railroad's main line at Portage. Kiewit crews converted the 1940s-era railroad tunnel into a state-of-the-art multi-use rail/automobile tunnel. The most prominent headline of the November 21st edition declared, “Open Alaska Railroad Whittier Tunnel.”. The Design-Build Institute of America awarded the project its 2001 Design-Build Excellence award for the best civil project over $15 million. Milestone” [Editorial], Anchorage Daily Times, November 23, 1942, 2; and Souvenir Booklet, Holing Through the Whittier Tunnel, November 20, 1942; Drawer 2, File No. By the spring of 1942, rapid progress was made at the Whittier Tunnel, but not at the Portage Tunnel, where a lack of power to operate the equipment slowed construction. [4]. 1-5, U.S. May 1 to September 30: Open daily 5:30 am to 11:15 pm, Effective October 1 to April 30 – Open daily 7:00 am to 10:45 pm. [6], In the spring of 1941, survey parties under the direction of Olavi “Ole” Kukkola and Anton Anderson determined the final locations for the two tunnels, railroad, and terminal. Lisa Mighetto and Carla Homstad, Engineering in the Far North:  A History of the U.S. Army Engineer District in Alaska, 1887-1992 (Missoula, MT:  Historical Research Associates, Inc., 1997), 64-68. It links the Seward Highway south of Anchorage with Whittier and is the only land access to the town. Once the military port of Whittier opened, plans had called for abandoning the rail line between Seward and Portage. The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, better known as the Whittier Tunnel, is the longest dual-use, or bimodal, highway tunnel in North America. Whittier Tunnel Whittier, Alaska 23 Aug 2000 Driving through the Whittier Tunnel. There were supplemental agreements to the prime contract, in the amount of $7,774,236 for other phases of the Whittier Project. The A.E.C.’s preliminary survey was so well executed that the line, completed twenty years later, covered almost exactly the same ground.” [5], In 1939, surveyors Porter Berryhill and Earl Grammar of the Alaska Railroad reexamined the proposed 1914 route. Most construction supplies to meet the needs of the Alaska supply effort had to be shipped from Seattle by sea, and Alaska itself lacked a land-based transportation infrastructure of harbor facilities, airports, railroads, and highways, which was being quickly assembled by the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. With the onset of war, though, the War Department determined that the rail line running from Seward to Portage, nearly 100 miles in length, made it vulnerable. The project was an effort to improve the handling capacity of the overtaxed Alaska Railroad, which began at Seward on the southern coast and ran to Fairbanks in the northern interior. Whittier is an easy 63-mile drive south of Anchorage on the scenic Seward Highway or Highway “1” on driving maps. On November 23, the Times editorialized in a patriotic, but partially racist, view of the project’s importance for the war effort and Alaska’s future development. Work on the rail bed began in the summer of 1941, and continued through the winter, with crews clearing ten to fifteen-foot snow drifts, and regularly working in winds from twenty to thirty miles per hour and zero temperatures. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed a contract with the West Construction Company of Boston, Massachusetts to perform most of the work. The two tunnels were separated by Bear Valley and drilled through the Chugach Mountains. The rail line ran from tidewater on Prince William Sound, then west 14.2 miles across the narrow neck of the Kenai Peninsula to Portage at the head of Turnagain Arm. Whittier, the gateway to Prince William Sound, has more than 700,000 visitors annually, and is one of the state’s largest tourist attractions. One of the unique features of Whittier is a 2.5-mile long tunnel that is shared by alternating one-way auto traffic and railroad traffic. Progress reports indicated that the men expected to “hole through” on the Portage Tunnel the first week in November and on the Whittier Tunnel two weeks later. The region occupied by Whittier was once part of the portage route of the Chugach people native to Prince William Sound. - See 544 traveler reviews, 187 candid photos, and great deals for Whittier, AK, at Tripadvisor. In an elaborate ceremony on March 10, 1943, the West Construction Company was presented with the Army-Navy Production Award or “E” Pennant, the highest award given to private industry for meritorious service. History, tunnel facts, operational information, and construction details are available on this website. Known by locals as the Whittier tunnel or the Portage tunnel, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is a tunnel through Maynard Mountain. Based on their results, the entire Whittier Project was authorized by Congress in 1941, with an appropriation of $5,300,000 for the drilling of two tunnels, fourteen miles of new line for the Alaska Railroad, and the construction of a terminal on Portage Canal. Local tips include when you should leave from Girdwood or Anchorage to make the tunnel. You can enjoy it either in your car or onboard the Alaska Railroad. The $60 million Whittier Access Tunnel was Alaska's first design-build transportation project. With a new rail connection to Whittier, the area began to change. Whittier’s development can be deciphered in buildings still in use today. In the fall of 1942, the West Construction Company, Alaska Railroad, and troops from the 42nd and 177th Engineer General Service Regiments and the 714th Railroad Battalion laid the track from Portage to Whittier. In 2000, the tunnel was opened to public access, and connects Whittier to Anchorage. The Whittier Tunnel, November 20, 1942). 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. Whittier Tunnel, Transportation & Public Facilities, State of Alaska Enjoy the unique experience of a trip to Whittier, Alaska, driving the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America! Charles Hendricks, Engineer Memoirs:  Brigadier General Benjamin B. Talley (Fort Belvoir, VA:  Office of History, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1994, 115; File No. The scope of work for this $60 million project included increasing the crown height by an average of 1.5 feet to allow installation of six 75-hp jet fans. Alaska Railroad Photograph Collection, Anchorage Museum (B1979.002.5904). Vehicle Size Limitations and Tunnel Restrictions (Click here to view Tunnel Restrictions section at bottom of page) Vehicle Size Limitations. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes ordered that the Seward-Portage route not be closed, and it was kept in operation. [8], In 1944, it was estimated by Otto Ohlson, General Manager of the Alaska Railroad, that the Whittier cutoff allowed the Alaska Railroad to carry “approximately 75 percent more freight traffic with existing equipment than would have been possible through the Seward Gateway.” [9]. A bit blurry, but it was the best I was able to do from the car with the low light conditions. Mighetto and Homstad, Engineering in the Far North, 68; and File No. Russian fur traders and early settlers continued to use the valley, establishing a trail along the creek and the Portage and Bu… You’ll go through Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel—the longest (2.5 miles) highway tunnel in North America, and the first designed for -40 Fahrenheit temperatures and 150 mph winds! Enjoy the unique experience of a trip to Whittier, Alaska, driving the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America! 82:  Whittier Tunnel Holing Through Ceremony Programs; Presentation Ceremony, March 10, 1943, Army-Navy Production Award, January 9, 1943, to West Construction Company, Whittier Cut-Off, Alaska Railroad; Benjamin B. Talley Papers, 1925-2002 (HMC-0241), Box 3; Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage. Enjoy the unique experience of a trip to Whittier, Alaska, driving the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America! On April 23, 1943 workers completed the spur, which consisted of a 1-mile tunnel through Begich Peak and a 2.5-mile tunnel through Maynard Mountain, thus linking Whittier to the Alaska Railroad's main line at Portage. Prince William Sound, Alaska History, Alaska Women, Eliza Scidmore, Frederica DeLaguna, Dora Keen. This short highway tunnel (400 feet) was constructed as part of the first phase of the Whittier Access Project. As World War II progressed, the U.S. Army needed additional ports to move troops and to handle the increased freight tonnages of war materials and equipment that were shipped to Alaska and to provide an alternative port if Seward became inaccessible. The Whittier Tunnel, also called the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, is a single lane 2.5 mile long tunnel, shared by cars, trucks, RVs, and trains. For Current Hours and Updates Click Below, Copyright 2020 | Whittier Alaska Chamber of Commerce | All Rights Reserved, Glacier View Condo Suites Whittier Alaska. It vindicates those proponents of the project who had the vision to see its military and economic necessity as well as its physical practicality. By October 1942, good progress had been made on both tunnels. On June 8, 1941, a cost-plus-fee contract was negotiated with the West Construction Company at the estimated contract cost of $3,110,206. Then they close the tunnel to allow for on-coming traffic leaving Whittier and for train use. The tunnel accommodates two lanes of traffic and a full paved roadway shoulder. It links the Seward Highway south of Anchorage with Whittier and is the only land access to the town. The Seward-Portage line carried the Alaska Railroad’s peacetime commercial traffic, but it was incapable of handling much military traffic without a major reconstruction. The work at Whittier required boring a railroad tunnel 13,900 feet long (Whittier Tunnel), constructing a dock and terminal facility at Portage, building a shorter tunnel (Portage Tunnel, later called Moraine Tunnel, 4,910 feet long, on the west side of the project close to the moraine of nearby Portage Glacier), and the laying of fourteen miles of railroad track from Portage to Whittier. 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