Along Interstate 95 in Baltimore, Maryland and winding under Baltimore Harbor is the Fort McHenry Tunnel. When the Fort McHenry Tunnel opened in 1985, it helped fill one of the most critical gaps that still existed in the vital I-95 corridor linking Florida to Maine.
Fast Facts About the Fort McHenry Tunnel
As of January 2010, one-way tolls are $2 for standard 2-axle vehicles and $2 for each additional axle.
The Maryland Transportation Authority operates and maintains the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel offers 8 lanes of traffic within 4 separate tube sections.
There’s 16 feet of vertical clearance within the tunnel.
The deepest portion of the Fort McHenry Tunnel is 115 feet below the surface of the water.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel is built with a horizontal curve – the first immersed tube road tunnel to have that feature; you’ll notice that other tunnels travel straight across from Point A to Point B.
From entrance portal to exit portal, the Fort McHenry Tunnel is 7,200 feet long.
The immersed tube section of the Fort McHenry Tunnel is 5,400 feet long.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel cost $750 million to build.
Antennas were built along with the tunnel to help maintain AM and FM radio reception for drivers in the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
Over 3.5 million cubic yards of soil were removed to construct the tunnel.
900,000 tons of concrete were used to create the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
The tunnel incorporates 100 million pounds of steel.
1,800,000 square feet of tiles are used to finish off the surfaces of the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
A combination of very bright lighting and light colored pavement are used for the first few hundred yards of the tunnel at the entrance points to help drivers’ eyes acclimate from the transition of bright daylight to the darkness of the tunnel.
Construction of the Fort McHenry Tunnel took 5-1/2 years.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel is a Momentary Diversion From Typical Interstate Traveling
While there are many interesting sights to see along Interstate 95 as it winds its way up and down the eastern United States, the Fort McHenry Tunnel is one of a handful of truly remarkable pieces of interstate highway architecture to be found along I-95.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel represents years of planning, construction, and debating. For drivers taking a long trek on I-95, it provides 2 minutes of diversion from the endless sight of gray concrete flyovers, on-ramps, and overpasses which dot the interstate terrain throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast portions of Interstate 95.
Have kids in the car? They’ll love the Fort McHenry Tunnel, too – they’ll probably enjoy hooting and hollering as some kids love to do when traveling through tunnels (with the windows open, this does provide some noticeable echo effect – even at interstate speeds approaching up to 55 miles-per-hour in the Fort McHenry Tunnel).
Building the Fort McHenry Tunnel
The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, which is currently part of Interstate 895, opened in 1957. However, a route through the heart of Baltimore Harbor was needed to help improve the traffic flow of both local commuters and those traveling long distances through the Baltimore area.
As the 1970s dawned, plans called for an 8-lane double-deck suspension bridge to span Baltimore Harbor. However, historians and other concerned citizens worried that a major suspension bridge so close to Fort McHenry would terribly alter the surroundings of this historic monument. After all, Fort McHenry was a pivotal battle sight during the Battle of Baltimore. This is also where Francis Scott Key wrote The Star-Spangled Banner – the U.S. national anthem – in 1814.
By the mid-1970s, the decision to build a tunnel under Baltimore Harbor was enacted. Throughout the rest of the 1970s, contracts, plans, and the legal motions were all set in place for the construction of the Fort McHenry Tunnel.
On May 7, 1980, groundbreaking for the long-awaited tunnel occurred. Over the next 18 months, the massive project to prepare the site for the tunnel itself began. By the end of 1981, sections of tunnel tubing were being installed.
In 1983, the construction of the tunnel had been finished. 2 years of work was required to finish the tunnel – including the completion of the roadway inside the tunnel, lighting, and other non-structural elements needed to prime the tunnel for safe and pleasant passage of interstate traffic. On November 23, 1985, the Fort McHenry Tunnel opened with well-deserved ceremony and celebration.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel has now been serving drivers for a quarter century. With 120,000 cars using the Fort McHenry Tunnel every day, it’s clear that getting around in the Baltimore area would be much more difficult without this important link. While traffic can still get snarled in and around the Fort McHenry Tunnel, plans to integrate an EZ-Pass Lane system in the Fort McHenry Tunnel should help alleviate some of the congestion.
Personal and first-hand knowledge and experience
Roads to the Future: Fort McHenry Tunnel
Fort McHenry Tunnel
Wikipedia: Fort McHenry Tunnel