A problem with late-night crashes and drunken driving has prompted Port Authority officials to plan daily overnight closures of the Wabash Tunnel starting next month.
The tunnel, which provides a connection between Route 51 and the South Side, has been closed or restricted since Oct. 22 because of three crashes that damaged the gate system that is used to control traffic flow.
A committee of the authority board on Wednesday recommended that after repairs are made and the tunnel is reopened next month, it should close daily from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. The full board will vote April 26 on the recommendation.
Michael Cetra, the authority's general counsel, said there have been 11 crashes, five of which caused serious injuries or property damage, in or around the tunnel in the last four years. Ten were after 11 p.m.
Authority police made 63 drunken driving arrests there in the same time frame, mostly people who had been drinking at Station Square or South Side establishments, he said. The need to patrol there is a drain on police resources, he said.
The former railroad tunnel was reopened in 2004 as a high-occupancy vehicle facility with the hope it would alleviate traffic congestion through the Fort Pitt and Liberty tunnels. But it has attracted few users. No Port Authority bus routes use it.
Typically, the tunnel is open to inbound cars with two or more occupants from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays and to outbound car pools from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. At other times, it is open to single-occupant vehicles. Because it is narrow, the tunnel operates in only one direction at a time.
Since the October crash, the tunnel has operated outbound only. It was fully closed on Monday for repairs that are expected to take about a month.
The new operating hours that would take effect May 19 are Monday through Friday, open inbound for HOVs (minimum two occupants) from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m.; open inbound to all traffic 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. for traffic reversal; open outbound for HOVs from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.; open outbound to all traffic from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.; closed to all traffic from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, it would be open outbound to all traffic from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., then closed for the night.