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Liberty Tunnel Project Wraps Up This Fall

Squirrel Hill Tunnel work scheduled to conclude next summer.

Liberty Tunnels
Liberty Tunnels
There is light at the end of the tunnel for the Liberty and Squirrel Hill tunnel projects.

And that's good news for Pittsburgh area motorists for whom closures and detours have become a way of life over the last few years.

As work on the tunnels continues, PennDOT advises motorists to use headlights and slow down when entering the work zones, allow extra travel time and "practice patience." 

"Safety is everyone’s responsibility," said Steve Cowan, PennDOT District 11 press officer.

See what PennDOT's vision is for these two tunnel projects:

LIBERTY TUNNELS

Motorists who are headed to and from the South Hills through the Liberty Tunnels still have some bumps in the road before the tunnel repairs wrap up this fall.

The tunnel closure schedule is:
  • The outbound tunnel is closed around-the-clock to traffic until Sunday, Aug. 11.
  • On Wednesday, Aug. 14 the inbound tunnel will close around-the-clock until Friday, Aug. 30. 
  • Nightly closures will continue from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. while work is being completed.  
Crews are replacing the concrete arch at the exit of the tunnel and working on the concrete arch wall at the ventilation shaft in the middle of the tunnel, he said. Swank Construction Co. LLC of New Kensington, the prime contractor, is also updating and repairing electrical, lighting and safety systems, as well as performing other improvements.

The Liberty Tunnels project is in its fourth and final phase, which has an estimated cost of $18.8 million, Cowan said.  

SQUIRREL HILL TUNNELS

Motorists who use the Squirrel Hill Tunnel into the city or heading toward the eastern suburbs still face another year of construction work before the project is completed.

The Squirrel Hill Tunnel has overnight single lane closures beginning at 9 p.m. inbound and 10 p.m. outbound, according to Steve Cowan, PennDOT District 11 press officer. 

The closures last until 6 a.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. There is no work on the Squirrel Hill Tunnel on Sunday nights.

This summer, there will be at least two more additional weekend closures, one outbound and the other inbound, Cowan said. The work will include paving the tunnels, installing the new over-height truck system, tile work and other various construction activities.

There will be additional lighting installed at the end of each tunnel, making the tunnel a little brighter. The tunnel's new system has the ability to adjust the lighting levels based on outside ambient light levels, Cowan said.   

And for those frustrated when their favorite song ends because the tunnel blocks radio reception, be patient. The radio reception will be restored when the project is completed, Cowan assured.

The current $49.5 million Squirrel Hill Tunnel rehabilitation project began on March 19, 2012. The overall project will conclude next summer. Walsh Construction Co. of Cecil is the prime contractor.

Despite the addition of lighting and a raised roof—and a public perception that the work is being done to help alleviate the rush-hour congestion, Cowan said PennDOT's goal was never intended to increase speed through the tunnel.  

"With the ceiling removed, it does give the impression of more open space," he said. "However, none of the lane widths, wall heights or geometry has changed. If better lighting and perceived open space helps maintain speed through the tunnel, it is a benefit that PennDOT would gladly accept."

However, the raised ceiling has produced some benefits for motorists. 

"Before work began, we averaged approximately 40 trucks per month that needed to be turned around due to height issues," Cowan said. "This is very prevalent in the winter when snow on the tops of trucks would often trip the sensors. These incidents should be virtually eliminated with the ceiling work."

Visit 511pa.com or call 511 from any phone to check traffic conditions on major roadways before traveling. 

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