An Old Pedestrian Tunnel Lies Beneath the Maine Turnpike
The Maine Turnpike has been carrying cars between Kittery and Portland since 1947 and later extended to Augusta in 1955. In the 71 years that the Turnpike has been around there have been a lot of changes. One of those changes in 1972 closed a pedestrian tunnel under they highway that was an original feature of its construction.
The Kennebunk service plaza opened on the Maine Turnpike in 1948, but it looked much different then it does today. At the time it was built, it was the midpoint on the highway.
Until the 1980s the restaurant at the service plaza was a Howard Johnson's, which back then, was seen at many highway service plazas across the country.
Today there are restaurants on both the southbound and northbound sides of the highway, but until 1972, there was only a restaurant on the southbound side as you can see in this vintage postcard.
With only a gas station northbound, hungry travelers would cross under the highway to the restaurant on the other side through an underground tunnel. In a Maine Turnpike press release from 2007 for the grand opening of the newly remodeled service plazas, the tunnel is mentioned.
The original Kennebunk Service Plaza, featuring a Howard Johnson’s restaurant and an Esso station opened in 1948, just months after the first 50- miles of Maine Turnpike opened from Kittery to Portland. Many Mainers have fond memories of parking on the northbound side of the highway and walking through a tunnel that traversed the highway to reach the restaurant on the southbound side.
A prior update to the service plazas in 1972 added a restaurant to the northbound side of the highway, making the tunnel no longer necessary. As part of the construction, the tunnel was sealed and likely still lies below the highway in one form or another.