The trip to Whittier, Alaska, is one that you would never forget. Alaska is full of beautiful scenery and Whittier, Alaska, will not disappoint. Anton Memorial Tunnel opened in 1943 to the town of Whittier, Alaska. However, if you want to visit you must plan accordingly because the Anton Memorial Tunnel operates on a schedule and on a rotational basis.
Visitors and tourists will come in contact with one tunnel before they reach the Anton Memorial tunnel. This is the Portage Lake Tunnel and is known to be short and sweet. Portage Lake Tunnel is the one visitors will travel through after passing over the Portage Creek Bridge. However, visitors need to be prepared for what's next Portage Lake Tunnel is just an appetizer. Whittier, Alaska, is known as the town under one roof. From the Buckner Building to the Begich Towers. Step inside and see this historical town for yourself. Just don't miss the last trip for the tunnel or IT'S LIGHTS OUT!!
The United States Military had started construction in Alaska before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. However, the military faced some problems once it came to the need for supplies. With the need for supplies in high demand; it put a heavy load on the port in Seward, Alaska. Railroad traffic tripled. Whittier, Alaska, had ship access both with Prince William Sound and Passage Canal. Whittier, Alaska, began construction on the two railroad tunnels in August 1941. These two tunnels would later lay the foundation of what would become the Anton Memorial Tunnel. The two tunnels would help move supplies from Whittier's docks to Portage, Alaska, north to Anchorage, and well beyond. Anton Memorial Tunnel helped open access to the small town.
Work began in April 1943 that completed the spur in Whittier. Anton Memorial Tunnel is a one-mile tunnel through Begich Peak and the 2.5-mile tunnel through Maynard Mountain. Maynard Mountain has a 4,137 feet elevation the drainage basins are minor streams in Alaska and the Pacific Ocean. Anton Anderson, an army engineer helped construct the tunnel that would become the military's main supply line. Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel was built in 1943 making it 76 years old. For the town of Whittier for 50 years, the town had no road access. The town of Whittier, Alaska, has a huge military past. Whittier along with Portage Pass helped with the expansion of Russian America, the Alaskan Gold Rush, along with World War II.
Whittier, Alaska, is a very historical town with 22 hours of daylight and was established during world war II by the U.S. army. However, the only way to reach the town of Whittier is through the Anton Memorial Tunnel or by ship. Anton Memorial Tunnel is the longest tunnel in North America and is shared with the Alaska Railroad. The tunnel is only one lane with cars, RVs, and buses sharing the tracks along with the train. The outside of the tunnel is unique because it is shaped like the letter a, and it houses the ventilation fans, a garage for fire trucks, and an electrical substation. In the town of Whittier, that end is made up of 14 inches of concrete to help withstand a major avalanche.
Bear Valley staging area is a parking area where vehicles will line up to pay and wait to go through the tunnel. The capacity of the staging area is 240 cars. Designed for cars, buses, and trucks. However, winds can get very high in the staging area. While in the staging area pay close attention to the traffic signals and message signs. The reddish/green traffic signal will tell you when to go, and when to stop. The message sign will update you on the opening and closing of the tunnel. When the light turns green, vehicles in the lane will get to go.
After you get the go signal you will encounter a metering signal. If the signal is not green, you must stop for a few seconds before entering the tunnel. Vehicles are only allowed in the tunnel at a certain rate of one car or pickup every 2.5 seconds. For commercial trucks and RV's, it's every 15 seconds and one bus every 45 seconds. However, if the gate is down, there is traffic coming from the opposite direction of the tunnel rather it is a train or another vehicle. Whittier is ready to welcome you!
During the summer of 2019, my family and I had the privilege of traveling to Whittier, Alaska. Like any other tourist, you want to know what happens if my vehicle stalls in the tunnel? In the tunnel, there are eight locations used for vehicle turnouts. Vehicles in the area will end up setting off an alarm in the control center. So, what happens if the tunnel catches on fire? Don't worry every turnout has a safe house. Drivers along with their passengers would be notified by a strobe light. 55 people can fit in the safehouses throughout the tunnel. Each safehouse is fire resistant, comes with emergency supplies, along with a telephone and public announcement system. Once you get into town, you won't find much. Little shops are on the strip near the port where the ships come in. Tourists can find a few places to grab a bite to eat, shop for some gifts, the Anchor Inn, and the Sound Fun Charters. However, the one thing that will attract tourist right off is there are no houses. That's right no houses are in Whittier, Alaska, however, check out the Buckner Building and the Begich Towers.
Just like the Anton Memorial Tunnel the Buckner Building also has a military background. Located on Blackstone Rd in Whittier it was built during WWII. The Buckner Building was very historical for the entire town. Whittier, Alaska, was under one roof in the Buckner Building. The United States military used it as a secret and self-contained military base. Buckner building had everything that you would need a bowling alley, library, a radio station, a shoot range, and even a small hospital. When you visit the town now the building set crumbled and abandoned on the mountainside. In 1964 the military ran out of uses for the building and the big Alaska earthquake left damage to the building. The Buckner Building now sits with mold, mildew, water, broken windows, and graffiti on the walls. If you enter, you will see parts on the bowling alley, the jail, and even the old theater. However, in the year 2014 the local government started to crack down on trespassers.
Begich Towers is located on 100 Kenai St and was built in 1956 and was designed to house up to 1,000 military officers, soldiers and their families. Begich Towers is a 14- story building, and is very similar to the Buckner Building. Just like the Buckner Building was that now sits abandoned on the hillside; Begich Towers also houses a city under one roof. Begich Towers contains condominiums, city offices, police, pharmacy, church, and much more. The whole town lives and even goes to school in the Begich Towers.