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Motorists get break as Liberty Tunnel work suspended until April 1

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By Bobby Kerlik
Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, 6:30 p.m.

Rehabilitation work on the Liberty Tunnel is suspended and it will be open until April 1as a result of an issue in painting the rebuilt tunnel, PennDOT officials said Monday.

The project was originally scheduled to be completed this year. Work on the tunnel, used by about 45,000 vehicles on an average day, won't be completed until at least July.

“There was a surface preparation issue with the tunnel causing the paint to peel. We are requiring the contractor to remove the paint, address the surface preparation and then repaint the walls,” PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said. “Because this work is weather sensitive, we have decided to take a hiatus through the winter and start back up on April 1.”

Swank Construction Co., the New Kensington-based prime contractor on the job, will not be penalized for work beyond the contract deadline, Cowan said. Company representatives could not be reached for comment.

Cowan said he didn't have a cost estimate for the additional painting, and who will pay for it is still under discussion.

The $18.8 million Phase IV Liberty Tunnel project includes repair of structural concrete, updating and repair of electrical, lighting and safety systems, refurbishing of the portal buildings, painting and other improvements.

The 5,889 foot-long Liberty Tunnel was built in 1924.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or

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