Our Northwest

Holding breath for fun turns dangerous

Thursday, May 29, 2014by  Jon Osterberg

It’s superstitious fun for many: hold your breath while driving through a tunnel.
   Somehow, when a 19-year-old Snohomish resident did it in Oregon on May 25, he managed to faint and crash his car, even though navigating the tunnel takes just 10 seconds.
   It happened west of Manning inside the 772-foot-long Dennis L. Edwards Tunnel, where the driver fainted and hit two other vehicles. Aside from the driver’s passenger, who was hospitalized Monday in serious condition, no one was badly hurt.
   Holding your breath through tunnels is an old game for kids and adults, and a challenging one on some Northwest routes. The original Mt. Baker Ridge tunnel in Seattle was 1,440 feet long, almost a 17-second ride at 60 mph. That tunnel seems more than twice as long today because of an adjacent lid that was added to its west side.
   Seattle’s downtown Battery Street Tunnel runs 3,140 feet, a long stretch at 40 mph.
   Motorists used to play the hold-your-breath game driving through two I-90 snow sheds near Snoqualmie Pass. The west shed, razed in 1983, was 700 feet long. The east shed, dismantled just this past April, stretched only 500 feet.
   Oregonians driving between Eugene and Florence on Highway 126 hold their breath driving through the 1,430-foot Knowles Creek Tunnel.
   Riding through mountain tunnels is way more challenging for rail riders. The Cascade Tunnel runs 7.8 miles under Stevens Pass, and with a 30-mph speed limit, Amtrak’s Empire Builder riders would need to hold their breath more than 15 minutes!

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