Whittier was developed by the United States government as a strategic military port for the North Pacific during World War II. It is still an important ice-free, deep water port for Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage, approximately 58 miles away. Until 2000 it was connected only by rail through a tunnel blasted in the surrounding mountain range. Today the tunnel has been improved to allow regular road transport access from the Seward Highway. It is a useful terminal for rail and ferry traffic and cruise ships embarking and disembarking guests for Anchorage. Most of the town’s fewer than 300 residents live in two tall residential towers originally built by the military.