Arlington, Virginia

Pentagon Taxi Tunnels Stubs

The Pentagon is so large that it was planned like a city, complete with internal highway infrastructure. 

The pentagonal-shaped headquarters of the U.S. Department is Defense is the largest office building in the world, with each of its five sides roughly equivalent in size to the Capitol Building. The building is so large that it comes to resemble a self-contained city for many of its 26,000 employees, complete with a police force, power plant and six zip codes.

When the building first opened in the early 1940s a reporter for Architectural Forum remarked that “perhaps the greatest lesson of the Pentagon is here: as building approaches the scale technically feasible, the distinction between architecture and city planning vanishes.” One particularly visible bit of urban planning in the original design were five lanes of traffic that ran through the building for 1,000 feet along its southwestern side.

The tunnels used to adjoin a huge internal concourse that could accommodate 25,000 arrivals per hour. Three lanes of traffic were set aside for buses (that arrived every 8 seconds) and two were for taxis. Before the installation of huge exhaust fans, the place was near suffocating because of all the fumes.

The taxi and bus tunnels were just one part of the roughly 400 acres of highway infrastructure built to carry the army of employees who commute to the Pentagon by car each day. This looping interconnected snarl of concrete led one early commuter to jokingly speculate that “there can be no doubt that the chief of army engineers collaborated with the landscape architect so that army headquarters could not be taken in a frontal assault.”  

Bus traffic shifted to a nearby surface station in 1977 for security reasons, and the tunnels were bricked up in 1983 after the bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut. The internal space was then remodeled and converted into offices by 1987 for the Strategic Defence Initiative Organization—Ronald Reagan’s so called “Star Wars” program. Today you can still clearly see the windowless sections of the facade that used to carry traffic through the Pentagon.

Know Before You Go

With a sharp eye you can catch a glimpse of the tunnel stubs from the parking lot

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