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PennDOT plans to remove 'obsolete' Fort Pitt Tunnel ceiling this fall

Thursday, May 15, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

Parkway West commuters, beware.

PennDOT officials announced on Thursday they plan to remove the ceiling of the Fort Pitt Tunnel in both tubes this fall, likely causing major traffic disruptions.

PennDOT planned to spend $3 million to $4 million this fall to repair the ceiling. Crews were forced to do emergency maintenance on it in March when it began to sag. PennDOT District 11 Executive Dan Cessna decided to scrap that plan in favor of removing the entire ceiling. Harrisburg officials approved the $21 million plan, PennDOT spokesman Steve Cowan said.

“Realizing the issues with the ceiling, Dan proposed to Harrisburg to take the ceiling out,” Cowan said.

The ceiling was scheduled to be removed within the next decade anyway because it's no longer necessary for ventilation, he said.

“With new fans and new technology, it's obsolete,” Cowan said.

PennDOT officials removed the Squirrel Hill Tunnel ceiling in the past few years, allowing taller trucks to use the tunnel.

Cowan said contracts will be put out for bid in September so work can begin in November. A construction schedule has not been determined, but officials have scheduled past work to avoid large city events such as Steelers games.

“It appears that we will need to do the equivalent of four full weekend closures in each direction,” Cowan said. “Obviously, with so many major events in the city, we will need to choose the weekend carefully.”

The tunnel work is in addition to a $51 million Parkway West project beginning in mid-summer. It involves resurfacing, extending ramps, shoulder reconstruction and deck replacement of three bridges at the Carnegie interchange. A lane will be added outbound near the Rosslyn Farms exit at the interchange of the Parkway West and I-79.

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




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