In this episode of Yinzer Backstage Pass, we get a behind-the-scenes tour of the Fort Pitt Tunnel.
Accessing the employee entrance of the Fort Pitt Tunnel is trickier than you might think. We met up with our PennDOT contact a few miles away at a doughnut shop on Banksville Road. From there, we followed her as she approached the tunnel and made the quick turn just before the entrance.
That’s where we met tunnel manager Paul Manyisha, who took us into the tunnel facility. Paul’s only been the tunnel manager for a few months, but he’s been working with PennDOT for a number of years.
If you’re like me, you’ve probably always wondered what’s inside that room with the windows right above the tunnel entrance as drivers head Downtown. Thankfully, that was one of the first stops on our tour. It turns out that those windows look right into Paul’s office, so if you look closely as you drive by, you might be able to spot him sitting at his computer.
Paul’s office is just the first of many secret features within the Fort Pitt Tunnel. There are meeting rooms, long tiled corridors, break rooms, huge halls full of massive fans, rooftops with scenic views of the Downtown skyline and even a hidden mezzanine right above the tunnel.
One thing I learned from Paul was that all of PennDOT’s major tunnels in Pittsburgh are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A crew of employees is constantly monitoring dozens of cameras mounted throughout the tunnels. Those tunnel crews are ready to react within seconds if they see a collision, a car broken down or even a confused family of cats in the tunnel.