We can’t have a grungy gateway

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The article detailing plans to remove the ceiling of the Fort Pitt Tunnel prompts me to write (“Fort Pitt Tunnels to Close for Repairs,” May 16). If you’ve driven through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel recently, the aesthetic effects of this proposal are apparent. A dirty, sooty ceiling and previously hidden conduits are now in plain view. While safety is of paramount importance, and this decision is probably the correct one from the engineering and financial standpoint, aesthetically, it is abhorrent.

When Point State Park was planned in the late 1940s, then Gov. Edward Martin directed the state to remove and replace the Point and Manchester Bridge. The story may be found on Page 76 of the book “The Shaping of the Point” by Robert C. Alberts. While the bridge was only about 20 years old, its retention would have destroyed the appearance of the park and Downtown. Likewise, the piers of its replacement, the Fort Pitt Bridge, as well as the portals of the Fort Pitt Tunnels were faced with granite. None of this was done out of engineering necessity, and certainly it was not cheap. But it was done because this was the centerpiece of our region.

In the same vein, the Fort Pitt Tunnels are literally the front door to our city. We do not want to be greeting visitors and newcomers with a filthy, industrial-appearing tunnel. PennDOT as well as our local elected officials need to find a way to fund either repairs or replacement of the tunnel ceiling.


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