The Burnside Tunnel, historically referred to as the Barnes Road vehicle tunnel, improved traffic movement through Portland’s West Hills by straightening the roadway and removing steep grades. Completed in 1940, it was one of three tunnels constructed in the West Hills with the help of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), along with the NW Cornell Tunnels. The 230 foot long concrete-lined tunnel is wide enough for vehicles lanes in each direction as well as sidewalks on either side of the roadway.
The Burnside Tunnel features beautiful stone masonry portals made of rubble and squared local basalt. Further design details include decorative keystones over the portals, inscribed with its completion year, and large basalt buttresses accenting either side of the entrance. All of Portland’s WPA tunnels (Burnside, NW Cornell and Rocky Butte) were designed and built by Ralph Curcio and his crew. Mr. Curcio, an Italian immigrant and European trained mason, is known in Oregon for his impressive stonework on the Columbia Gorge Historic Highway, Crown Point Vista House, Multnomah Falls Lodge (all completed between 1913 and 1922), as well as on the wonderful New Deal era Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood.
Barker, Neil L. (1996) “The Works Progress Administration in Portland, Oregon: An Historical Narrative and Survey Report, 1935-1942,” Masters of Arts in History – Washington State University. May 1996. p.80.
Bednarz , Susan et al, “The History of Tunneling in Portland: Rails, Highways and the Environment” - http://www.jacobssf.com/images/uploads/10_Bednarz_TunnelinginPortland_NAT.pdf . Viewed January 3, 2015.
Project originally submitted by Judith T Kenny on January 5, 2015.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.
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