Heroes (West Rock) Tunnel

Heroes Tunnel (a.k.a. West Rock Tunnel)
New Haven

Regicides Trail above, Wilbur Cross Parkway below

stevehike2.jpgThe Regicides Trail traverses the ridge above the well-known tunnel on the Wilbur Cross Parkway. When I was just gaining a love for long distance trail hiking as a young Boy Scout, we hiked a section of the Appalachian Trail over the Lehigh Tunnel. Something about looking down at the cars below going through the mountain I had climbed felt… felt powerful somehow. I was probably 11 at the time and I remember that feeling fondly. This trail and tunnel are not quite as impressive, but it’s still something cool to do in CT. In fact, you can’t do this ANYWHERE else in New England. Why? Because Heroes Tunnel (renamed from West Rock Tunnel in 2003) is the only road tunnel in New England that goes through a land feature.

The following is excerpted from my Regicides hike report:

We trudged onward towards what was, for Andy, the highlight of the day: hiking over the West Rock Tunnel and the Wilbur Cross Parkway (which becomes the Merritt a bit further south). I’ll admit, it was sort of cool and of course all subsequent drives through the tunnel will annoy my wife and child: “Papa has been up there. Above us now. Right over this tunnel. Yeah, that’s right.”

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Driving under the tunnel…

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The view from southern side over the tunnel…

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Andy framing one of his “perfect shots” from the northern part of the woods over the tunnel… and there’s that mystery tower…

This rather odd stone tower in the middle of the woods is – to the best of my knowledge, a ventilation tower for the tunnel a couple hundred feet below. A CT letterboxing website (RIP) descibed this thusly: “Walk up the stairs to a stone octagonal building, built into the hillside. We believe this building is an air shaft for the Wilbur Cross Tunnel below. This looks like some medieval tower with its iron gated windows and steel door.” Not mentioned is the weirdly distant sound of the trucks passing below.

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6 responses to “Heroes (West Rock) Tunnel”

  1. Bill Birney says:

    I remember as a young boy of 12 being there when the Heros (West Rock Tunnel) opened on Nov. 1st 1949. I attended a parochial school in the area and of course had that day (I think it was a Tuesday) off because it was All Saints Day. The governor Chester Bowles was there as well as other dignitaries. Before the stretch of the highway opened between the tunnel and Dixwell Ave. we used to ride our bikes on the highway after the work crews left for the day.If we pedaled up to The West Rock Nature Center, we could coast almost all the way from the tunnel entrance north to Dixwell Ave. I remember well the sounds of TNT exploding while crews were blasting the bores. Opening day my buddy Richie and I were able to ride our bikes thru the tunnel from North to South, the opening ceremony took place at the south end of the tunnel. After the opening we couldn’t go back thru on bikes so had to take the long way home, around west rock.

  2. Ed says:

    In 2003 I asked our local state reresentative if the tunnel could be renamed to honor local first responders who are truely American heroes everyday. Firemen, police, EMTs, blood donors and just average citizens who jump in when they are called upon. There is a pond near the tunnel names after a hero dad who in 1995 jumped into the frozen pond to save two boys who fell through the ice. He died after saving them.
    Our state representative petitioned the legislators to change the name from West Rock Tunnel to Heros tunnel. I’m very proud every time I drive through it.
    The tunnel name got connected to 9/11 in the media, which is fine, but not truely the original intent.

  3. Dave says:

    Does anyone know if a photo exists of the 2 plaques on the northbound side of the tunnel?

  4. Shoshana says:

    The tower you mention, also known as Air Tower (there’s actually a fan page for it on Facebook, set up by a friend of mine), does indeed ventilate the Heroes Tunnel–and one can actually go inside! You pull open a heavy door, climb up a metal ladder, and enter a circular room. The center of the room has a big grate, and a roaring sound from cars passing below can be heard, but there’s a good-sized walkway on the perimeter of the room. It’s worth checking out!

  5. Steve says:

    Is it really worth it?

  6. Rob says:

    It’ll be really worth it when DHS has you on the ground with a gun to your head for tampering with the tunnels ventilation system.

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