I-71 Lytle Park Tunnel

The Lytle Tunnel opened in 1969 and is about 1,000ft. long. It carries six lanes of I-71 underneath Lytle Park on the eastern edge of downtown Cincinnati.  Private money was raised to build the tunnel, which to some degree preserved the character of the eastern end of 4th, 5th, and Pike St. Construction destroyed the original park and five of the city's oldest homes. Low-rise apartments were built in their place after the tunnel was completed.

The tunnel is located at the junction of Ft. Washington Way (U.S. 50) and I-71.  The tunnel itself consists of three tubes: a three lane northbound tube, a two lane southbound tube, and a central single lane southbound tube. The center single lane tube is a relic of an original Ft. Washington Way left-side exit, which divided from southbound 71 north of the tunnel, ran through the single lane tunnel, and then traveled west in the median of Ft. Washington Way to exits at Main St. and Vine St. With the rebuilding of Ft. Washington Way, the single lane tube is still a left side exit, however it now exits from southbound I-71 to 3rd St. westbound.

This graphic from 1948 forsaw a Lytle Park tunnel almost exactly as it was actually built,
but a much different Fort Washington Way, Riverfront, and a Pike St. Bridge to replace
the Central Bridge.

The Lytle Tunnel itself is fairly generic in appearance, with white tiled surfaces and low-key stone portals. The three north portals are adjacent, however the south portals are staggered, with the southbound two lane tube about 50ft. west and 10ft. above the others.

The Lytle Tunnel's staggered south portals.
[Jake Mecklenborg November 2004]

There are no vent buildings at the portals, instead because of the short tunnel length ventilation is limited to a single set of ceiling intakes at the tunnel midpoint. Vane axial fans shoot exhaust out of grates in the 4th St. sidewalk above. Oddly, these grates are present only in the three lane northbound and single lane southbound tubes, with no apparent similar ventilation in the two lane southbound tube, despite an almost identical length. Service doors connect the tubes at the midpoint, and fire hose nozzles are evenly spaced throughout the ceilings.

This information panel is located in in the park near the south portals.


1. Lytle Tunnel Photos

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