An RV can be much larger and much heavier than a standard vehicle. Because of this, special care and consideration must be used when operating an RV.
Here’s what you should know about RVs driving through tunnels:
RVs can travel through any tunnel that can accommodate it. This will depend largely on the height and width of the tunnel but can sometimes be determined by other factors. For instance, some tunnels prohibit RVs because of their propane tanks rather than their size.
At this point, you’re probably thinking why can’t I bring propane into a tunnel? We’ll get to that in a second.
First, let’s take a closer look at some restrictions and rules driving RVs in tunnels.
Tunnel Restrictions For Large RVs
Most newer tunnels have been built to accept vehicles as tall as 13 feet high and as wide as 8 1/2 feet wide. However, not all tunnels were built to do so.
Many class A RVs can be almost 13 feet high and 8.5 feet wide. In fact, many smaller travel trailers can be 8 feet wide.
Also, just because the tunnels will accept your RV, doesn’t mean it is even legal to be driving yours.
For example, did you know that many states in the United States do not allow RVs to be wider than 8 feet? Many campers and motorhomes today are more than 8 feet and while you probably won’t ever be fined for an extra few inches, it is something you should be aware of.
Most tunnels will have their maximum height restrictions listed before the tunnel and on the tunnel as well. When you’re approaching any tunnel, look for these restrictions so that you can determine if it’s safe to go through or if you need to find another route.
If you have a large motorhome or camper in tow, you may also want to consider an RV GPS. This type of GPS will warn you in advance of tunnels and bridges that are too low for your vehicle and they’ll route you through to a safer route. Just be sure to verify that your GPS is correct before you go through any tunnel as having an RV GPS is no substitute for careful planning and good judgment.
Calculating The Length And Height Of Your RV
If you’re traveling in an RV you’ll want to find out how tall and how wide yours is. Many people will post this information near the steering wheel so that they don’t have to remember it. It’s also useful for when other people are driving or pulling your RV since they might not know just how large your RV is.
Here’s an article we wrote on how to measure the length and height of your RV the correct way.
Considerations About Weight
While it is rare to see an RV prohibited by weight, this can happen.
Also, you may find that your electronic toll passes do not apply to your heavier motorhome or camper. Most tunnels will have tolls, so you may want to find out if your EZ-Pass works before you head through without paying.
For more information on RV weights and some of the restrictions, you may encounter while towing or driving a heavy RV, check out our article about Motorhomes and Weigh Stations”
Restrictions on RVs With Propane Tanks
As we said earlier, some tunnels will restrict usage because of propane tanks.
The reason is that many tunnels run under water and it is possible that propane gas can pool up in these tunnels and become trapped. As we all know, propane is flammable so you wouldn’t want to drive through a tunnel that is full of propane.
Most shorter tunnels do not have restrictions, but many longer tunnels do. In some cases, you’ll see signs that ask you to pull over so that someone can inspect that your propane tanks have been turned off. In other cases, there will be signs banning you completely from traveling through them and they’ll tell you where to go to bypass the tunnel.
The difference is usually in how far the driver would have to detour.
For example, if there is a bridge near the tunnel, it is easier just to have all RVs take the bridge instead of the tunnel. However, if there aren’t any easy to reach detours, the state may decide to inspect vehicles and let them pass through afterward.
RV Rules: 7 Popular Tunnels
There are many large tunnels throughout the world and you may be wondering whether or not you can travel through them in your RV.
Here is the rundown on some of the more popular tunnels that you may want to drive through.
The George Washington Bridge
This bridge runs between Manhattan and New Jersey.
Construction on this bridge started all the way back in the 1920s and by the 1940s it had already gone from 6 to 8 lanes. The bridge has both an upper and a lower section. People with propane tanks are supposed to travel via the upper section.
The Holland Tunnel
The Holland tunnel runs under the Hudson River and connects Manhattan to Jersey City.
This tunnel has been around since 1927 and was once the longest underwater vehicular tunnel in the world. The tunnel does have exhaust fans, but because propane is heavier than air, propane tanks are banned in this tunnel.
Even if you don’t have propane in your RV, you may still find that you cannot travel through this tunnel.
The reason for this is that it has a height limit of 12 feet 6 inches and a width limit of only 8 feet. Many Class A and Class B campers can be as wide as 8 1/2 feet, so be sure you know your motorhome’s width before venturing through this tunnel.
For further details check the Port Authority’s website at panynj.gov.
The Baltimore Harbor Tunnel
The Baltimore Tunnel is over 60 years old and stretches almost a mile and a half long.
It prohibits any vehicle with propane gas in excess of 10 pounds per container. The restriction allows you to carry up to 10 containers.
This means that if you’re simply carrying one or two 5 pound propane tanks, you won’t have to worry about this restriction.
The height restriction won’t be a problem for most people since its maximum height is 13 feet 6 inches. However, the maximum width is only 8 feet so some motorhomes and campers may be restricted from going through the tunnel.
For more information on the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, please visit Maryland’s Transportation Authority website at mdta.maryland.gov/.
The Fort McHenry Tunnel runs into Baltimore via I-95.
When this tunnel was built in the 1980’s it was said to be the most expensive tunnel ever built in America. This tunnel has the same restrictions of the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel (mentioned above).
The Lehigh Tunnel
The Lehigh Tunnel is a short tunnel that goes through the mountains along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
This tunnel gets a lot of traffic by RVers wanting to head up North. Because the tunnel is short and above ground, there aren’t any propane restrictions.
The tunnel is extremely tall and the lanes are wide so you won’t have any trouble driving through it even with a large Class A camper.
The Ted Williams Tunnel
This tunnel travels under Boston Harbor and is 1.6 miles long.
Propane is completely prohibited in this tunnel as well as all other major tunnels in Boston. This includes the Sumner, Callahan, Prudential, and Dewey Square tunnels.
The Eurotunnel Tunnel
This railway tunnel connects England and France. If you’ve never driven through a train before, it is a neat experience.
Even though people do not drive through the Channel Tunnel, they may want to take their motorhome through using the vehicle car. These cars can accept large motorhomes, but they cannot accept motorhomes with any type of flammable gas. You can find more information on this on the Euro Tunnel website at https://www.eurotunnel.com/uk/traveller-info/vehicles/caravans-campers-vans-and-trailers/.
Alternatives To Consider
If you travel far enough, you’re bound to run into a tunnel that does not allow you to enter into it with your propane tank. Luckily, avoiding tunnels that will not accept your RV isn’t very difficult. Signs are usually displayed prominently and you can even buy RV GPS systems that will take into account propane tanks as well.
One upside to having to avoid some tunnels is that you may end up saving money on tolls. Some tunnels can cost over $20.00 to go through and yet only cause one to go 20 minutes out of their way.
Another alternative to changing routes is to simply go without your propane tank. If you’re traveling to a campground and you won’t be using your shower, you may find you don’t even need it. This will depend of course on what type of appliances you have.
Some RVs use propane to power the oven, the fridge, and the hot water heater. If your fridge is a two-way fridge that can operate off of both propane and electric, you’d still have your fridge, but you’d lose your hot water and your stove.
You could get around this by showering at the campground’s facilities and cooking on a charcoal grill.
This being said, my personal advice would be to just pay attention while driving. If you know you’ll be passing a large underground tunnel in advance, check their state’s website and see if you need to worry about your propane or not. The worst thing that will happen is that you’ll end up having to drive a little out of your way.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.