Whittier and the Island Princess
Jul 18, 2018
|After another tasty breakfast at the beautiful Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge, we packed up our gear for a bus ride from Kenai to Whittier which is where the second half our vacation began aboard the Island Princess cruise ship. On the way to Whittier, we passed through a tunnel that is an engineering marvel.
The town of Whittier is accessible by boat, plane, train or motor vehicle. The trains and motor vehicles share a one lane tunnel called the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel – named after Anton Anderson who was the chief engineer for the project that brought rail access to Whittier. Mr. Anderson came to Alaska in 1919, where he served as the location engineer for the Matanuska Valley colonization project, engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, chief engineer for the Alaska Railroad, and mayor of Anchorage. The tunnel was dedicated to him in 1976 for his long service to Alaska and the Alaska Railroad.
The tunnel was originally built for the railroad and there was no car access unless you loaded your vehicle on the train. As traffic increased to the town of Whittier which has a port where the water does not freeze over, the officials had to find a way to allow better access into Whittier. After numerous economic and engineering studies over the years, a cost-effective solution—a dual use tunnel—was found that could be built with the funding available. So the existing tunnel was re-designed to allow for one lane of traffic with railroad tracks down the middle. It is fully computerized and alternates the direction of the traffic every half hour. There are multiple safe rooms inside the tunnel that can be used in the event of a fire in the tunnel or an earthquake.
Here are some statistics about the tunnel:
• Longest highway tunnel in North America (13,300' or 2.5 miles).
• Longest combined rail and highway use tunnel in North America.
• First U.S. tunnel with jet turbine and portal fan ventilation.
• First computerized regulation of both rail and highway traffic.
• First tunnel designed for -40° F. and 150 mph winds.
• Portal buildings designed to withstand avalanches
It was pretty cool riding through the tunnel and once on the otherside, we could see the Island Princess waiting for us. We went through the embarkation process and were onboard in about an hour. We oriented ourselves to the layout of the ship, checked out our awesome balcony room, and had a late lunch at the Horizon Buffet. We saw many of the same folks that were on the land portion with us too. We changed into our bathing suits as soon as our luggage was delivered and hopped in the hot tub for a quick soak while it was fairly quiet. Later we hung out at the railing and watched the rest of the passengers board, many of them arrived via the Alaska railroad in Princess rail cars. The Island Princess set sail at 8:30 pm and we began our weeklong cruise!