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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel

Above, the approach to the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel from the east. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In fifteen years, the Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel in Zion National Park will be marking its centennial.

The 1.1 mile tunnel was built in the 1920s and was completed in 1930. It was dug into the mountainside for vehicle traffic so that people can have easier access to Bryce Canyon National Park.

At the time of its construction, the concept of modern monster-sized motorhomes never entered the engineers' minds. Today, due to the size of modern Class A and Class C motorhomes (and other vehicles), the National Park Service has to provide one-way access for these oversized vehicles.

According to the National Park Service's website:
Before 1989, large vehicles, including tour buses, motor homes, and trailers, were involved in more and more accidents and near misses in the tunnel due to an immense increase in the volume of traffic and in the size of vehicles passing through the tunnel.  
A study by the Federal Highways Administration in early 1989 found that large vehicles could not negotiate the curves of the tunnel without crossing the center line. To ensure safety, the National Park Service began traffic control at the tunnel in the spring of that year. 
Rangers posted at both ends of the tunnel convert two-way tunnel traffic to one-way for larger vehicles, ensuring safe passage. This service, for which a $15 dollar tunnel permit fee is charged, was provided for over 27,874 oversized vehicles in calendar year 2011.
If one is entering Zion National Park from the east entrance, on top of the $25 park entrance fee, visitors need to purchase a tunnel permit for an additional $15. So, to enter and enjoy Zion National Park from the east entrance, visitors have to hand over $40 at the gate. At the park's entrance gate, after paying the tunnel permit fee, the visitor's receipt and permit are taped to the vehicle's windshield on the inside on the passenger side.

Above, the east ranger tunnel gate shack. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When we entered the tunnel, we managed to be the lead vehicle of the caravan of vehicles.

Above, the height signs show another reason why motorhomes have to drive
 in the center of the roadway inside the tunnel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As the above photo indicates, pedestrians and bicyclists are not permitted inside the tunnel. It is very narrow inside.

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