History

The Longest Toll-Free Tunnel in the South is Right Here in Texas

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At a length of 3,791 feet and a depth that takes you well below the Houston Ship Channel, the Washburn Tunnel is the longest toll-free tunnel in the southern United States. Situated between Houston and Pasadena, right here in Texas, the tunnel was completed in 1950 and remains today as one of the more amazing feats of man’s design and construction projects.

The Longest Toll-Free Tunnel in the South is Right Here in Texas

Photo: Facebook/Traces of Texas

Named for Harry L. Washburn, who was the Harris County Auditor, Washburn Tunnel is the only underwater vehicular tunnel remaining in Texas (following the 1995 conversion of the Baytown Tunnel to a bridge). Although you might get nervous considering the trip takes you well below the shipping channel, and the idea of the water pressure overhead can be a bit unnerving, the tunnel is well equipped with subterranean pumps (placed beneath the tunnel’s pavement). Any water is drained away. The use of fans are also incorporated to rid the air of carbon monoxide, and a generator is also in place for the purpose of emergencies and backup support during maintenance. To ensure that when you’re driving the Washburn you don’t get blinded upon entrance or exit, there are brighter lights installed at both ends.

The Longest Toll-Free Tunnel in the South is Right Here in Texas

Photo: Facebook/Msnikki Real Knewme

At a cost close to $8 million to construct in 1950, the engineering and completion for a project of this nature today is estimated at more than $83 million! Not only does the Washburn Tunnel hold the record as the longest toll-free tunnel in the south and the only underwater vehicular tunnel remaining in Texas, but in 2008 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s a unique piece of engineering that has caused many to marvel, but few are familar with its history. Now you know!