Better late than never applies to the news that the Federal Transit Administration has finally given approval so that all motorists can use the Wabash Tunnel during the two-year closure of outbound West Carson Street.
The Port Authority asked for an exception to the two-passenger High Occupancy Vehicle requirement to use the tunnel, which applies because federal funds paid for most of the renovation from its prior use by trains to one that can accommodate buses and cars. Work that closed outbound lanes of West Carson began in the summer, but it took the Port Authority three months to cut through federal red tape. It won a waiver from the FTA Wednesday, which took effect immediately.
The tunnel connects West Carson near Station Square with Woodruff Street near Route 51 and should provide some relief from evening rush-hour tie-ups. Some motorists use it as an alternative to the Fort Pitt and Liberty tunnels, but with the HOV restrictions suspended, more people will have access. The Wabash Tunnel is open on weekdays inbound toward Downtown from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and outbound from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. On weekends, it is open outbound only, from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
The temporary change is only a first step. The Wabash Tunnel is underutilized. The best long-term outcome would be to abolish the two-passenger minimum altogether.