Emergency tunnel repairs spur backups

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The bad news?

Emergency repairs to the ceiling of the Fort Pitt Tunnel created traffic nightmares for drivers heading into the city for much of the day and night Friday.

The good news?

Workers were expected to be finished by 6 a.m. today, in plenty of time for the St. Patrick's Day parade Downtown.

The repairs, begun after crews from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation discovered a sagging concrete ceiling about 9 a.m. Friday during routine maintenance, reduced inbound traffic to a single lane for much of the day and closed the inbound lanes entirely after 9 p.m.

State police at the Moon barracks said Friday night that traffic had backed up past the juncture with Interstate 79 earlier in the day and was expected to worsen with the tunnel closure at 9 p.m.

Steve Cowan, a PennDOT spokesman, said workers were removing a nearly 40-foot section of ceiling that was sagging as the result of deteriorating brackets.

He said the tunnel is one of the region's most heavily traveled corridors and acknowledged the closure affects tens of thousands of people.

"We certainly don't want to inconvenience our motorists," Mr. Cowan said. "However, for safety's sake we need to do this work."

Mr. Cowan said Friday night that the tunnel would reopen as soon as possible.

"It's anticipated the work will be done by 6 a.m.," he said. "If they get finished earlier, they will reopen then."

Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or Twitter @rczullo. Lauren Lindstrom: llindstrom@post-gazette.com. First Published March 14, 2014 2:25 PM

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