Location: Liberty Tunnel Fan House on Mt. Washington
Featured guests: Paul Manyisha, PennDOT’s tunnel manager
3 things that surprised me:
1. PennDOT manages three tunnels in Pittsburgh: the Fort Pitt Tunnel, the Squirrel Hill Tunnel and the Liberty Tunnel. Paul is the tunnel manager for all three of them and has an office at each, though he spends most of his time in the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Each tunnel is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
2. The Liberty Tunnel is about a mile long and is the longest automobile tunnel in Pittsburgh. A few months after opening in 1924, a traffic jam trapped cars in the tunnel and drivers started passing out from carbon monoxide poisoning. Plans were immediately made to build ventilation shafts 300 feet about the tunnel. The shafts were completed in 1928 and are 200 feet tall.
3. Paul explained that in the early days of the Liberty Tunnels, there used to be a small jail near one of its entrances. If you were accused of committing a crime in the tunnel, you would be kept in the cell before being transported to a nearby facility. The jail cell is long gone, but there’s still an old safe inside the tunnel.
One thing that didn’t make the final cut: The tunnel holds a few records. In addition to still being Pittsburgh’s longest tunnel, it was the first tunnel built for automobiles in the eastern half of the country. Additionally, it was the first tunnel to provide AM radio reception.
Additional info: You can watch Paul take us behind the scenes at the Fort Pitt Tunnel in this Yinzer Backstage Pass episode from 2022.