Bomb threat closes Fort Pitt, Liberty, Squirrel Hill tunnels
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A bomb threat led police to close the city's three major vehicular tunnels during the evening rush hour tonight, causing serious traffic snarls. Authorities said nothing suspicious was found and all three were reopened within an hour.
The Fort Pitt, Squirrel Hill and Liberty tunnels, three main thoroughfares into the city, were shut down after police received the threat shortly before 5 p.m.
State police Trooper Robin Mungo said a man with a foreign accent called Allegheny County's 911 system around 4:45 p.m. and said a bomb would explode at 6 p.m. at one of the "Parkway" tunnels.
The call was traced to pay phone, which has been taken as evidence, she said.
"At a quarter to six, we closed down the tunnels to make sure everyone was safe and to continue our sweeps," Trooper Mungo said.
Initially, the Liberty Tunnel was not closed, but officials closed it shortly after 6 p.m. when they received a report that a package had been found, said Jim Struzzi, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. That report was unfounded, he said.
The three tunnels were reopened shortly after 6:30 p.m., but not before the ordeal had caused headaches for tens of thousands of drivers.
Fort Pitt carries between 110,000 and 120,000 motorists daily; Squirrel Hill carries between 105,000 and 115,000 motorists daily, and Liberty carries between 40,000 and 60,000 motorists daily.
Trooper Mungo defended the decision to close the tunnels and said police would do it again.
"In the day and age we live in, we take every threat serious," she said. "We would rather be safe than sorry."
State police inspect the tunnels daily and followed procedures for such an event, Trooper Mungo said. It was the first time she could recall the procedures being put to use in her five years.
Mr. Struzzi said PennDOT has cameras in the tunnels, but they do not record what happens.
The FBI was investigating the incident.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
First Published May 31, 2007 6:03 pm