No Destination: Cumberland Gap Tunnel

Cumberland Gap Tunnel (Tennessee Portal), Cumberland Gap, Tenn.
Traveling between Middlesboro, Ky. and Cumberland Gap, Tenn. used to be quite a dangerous trip; old US 25E was nicknamed "Massacre Mountain" because of the number of fatalities occurring on the windy road. Today, that path has been restored to nature and is a hiking path. There is a great 33-photo-tour of the old US 25E soon after it was closed and the 'restoration to nature' project began. Here is a photo in 2002 of students planting saplings in the old roadbed. Of course, this old pass - one of only three natural paths through the Appalachians - "served as a gateway in prehistoric times, when Native Americans used it as a footpath and buffalo used it to seek greener pastures." [*]

Vehicular travel now travels under the mountain through the Cumberland Gap Tunnel. Begun in 1991 and opened in 1996, there are two two-lane tubes with each traveling 4,600 feet.  During construction, subterranean mountain streams would have pumped hundreds of gallon every minute into the tubes. As a result, the tubes are lined with thick PVC piping. [*] The total project to construct the tunnel ran $280 million (the project was about 2x budget).

Interestingly, the Cumberland Gap Tunnel is one of only two tunnels in the United States that traverse a state line (the other is on I-77 between W. Va. and Va.). Although the old US 25E meandered also through Virginia, the tunnels do not (though they are mere yards away). [* - great link on planning, construction details]

Note: Yes. The photo was taken of the Tennessee portal, but the Kentucky portal looks about the same. And the latter is in Bell County. So there.
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