The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation plans to rehabilitate the Squirrel Hill Tunnel starting in 2012 in a three-year project costing about $55 million.
PennDOT spokesman Jim Struzzi says new lighting and a new ventilation system will be installed at night and on the weekends.
Struzzi says crews will also work on the tunnel’s ceiling.
“A drop-down ceiling was put in to hide the ventilation systems that are above the travel lanes. Those are necessary to keep the fumes from the vehicles traveling through the tunnels pumped out of the tunnel,” says Struzzi. “In looking at this rehabilitation project, we felt that we could put in new ventilation systems that would allow us to remove that drop ceiling.”
Struzzi says removing the drop ceiling will reveal the tunnel’s true arched ceiling, much like that of the Liberty Tunnel. The PennDOT spokesman says that measure would raise the roof of the tunnel by about a foot and would probably ease some people’s claustrophobia. Struzzi says he hopes that means less people braking before the tunnel and less congestion leading up to the tubes.
The higher ceiling may also reduce instances of over-height trucks stopping in front of the tunnel and backing up traffic.