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Field Notes:
Pittsburgh Tunnels Driving Tour

> > "I will be staying overnight near Pittsburgh. I would like to take a side trip in the evening to explore the tunnels in Pittsburgh."

Here are driving directions for visiting the major downtown tunnels in Pittsburgh. It includes the following tunnels: Fort Pitt, Squirrel Hill, Armstrong, Mt. Washington Trolley, PCCStLRR and subway, Wabash, Seldom Seen.

From I-79, I-279 north through the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Be in right lane thru tunnel and across Fort Pitt Bridge. Enjoy the most dramatic entrance to any city. Follow right exit at end of bridge to Monroeville I-376 East.

Many river bridges over the Monongahela River on the right. The most significant is the Smithfield St Bridge, blue and yellow double lenticular truss.

Follow I-376 East thru Squirrel Hill Tunnel.

To turn around after passing eastward through Squirrel Hill Tunnel: Edgewood-Swissvale exit 9. Swissvale ramp, look for signs for Braddock Av. Left turn at stop sign at end of ramp. Go bottom of hill and left at the light near the BP gas station. (Turn right for Taco Bell.) Pass under I-376 and stay in right lane. Look for I-376 West ramp immediately on right.

Now heading back toward downtown, pass thru other Squirrel Hill Tunnel bore. Just as Pittsburgh skyline returns to view, take Glenwood exit 7B. Follow ramp as it curls right. Follow Bates St under I-376 and former B&O RR. (Side trip: go straight thru light to see former J&L Steel site, now office buildings, and the J&L Hot Metal bridge.) Turn at light onto Second Av toward downtown (right turn if you didn't take the Hot Metal side trip.)

Follow Second Av along the Mon River. In the distance, the yellow South 10th St bridge will become visible. This is Pittsburgh's only conventional cable suspension river crossing. Pass under the eastbound I-376 lanes and B&O RR bridge (now a bike-hike trail). As you approach the north landing of the South Tenth St Bridge, the westbound I-376 will cross above you. Beneath them, turn right at the light, into the Armstrong Tunnels. Probably the best tunnel in the county: twin bore, vaulted ceilings, curved in the middle, stone portals.

Use left lane thru the tunnel. And turn left at the light onto Forbes Av.

Just after you begin to pass under the yellow riveted beam overpass carrying the Crosstown Blvd. turn left at the light onto ramps leading to the Liberty Bridge. Not well marked -- look for overpass...if you pass the former jail (massive rusticated stone walls, you've gone too far.)

The ramp leads directly onto the Liberty Bridge. Use right lane across bridge. Note the Panhandle Bridge immediately downstream, used for light rail/subway. This line uses the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel which passes thru the hillside opposite the south end of the Smithfield St. Bridge.

Still in the right lane as you enter the Liberty Tunnel. Right turn at the exit of the tunnel, following signs for West End - PA51 North.

Go straight at the light and pass under the transit bridge. This is the other end connecting to the transit tunnel. If you're adventurous, you could side trip up Warrington to South Hills Junction, but unless you ride the T, there's not much visible.

If you have the time, park at South Hills Junction off of Warrington. Take the T inbound. Through the transit tunnel. Across the Panhandle Bridge. Into the old PCCStLRR tunnel which becomes the subway tunnel. Ride the loop to Gateway Center and back to the starting point. While in downtown Pittsburgh, stop at each of the 3 subway stations and pop your head out to street level for a look around. There's no extra charge to enter and exit once you're in the Downtown Zone. The whole trip will cost 75 cents each time you cross the Panhandle Bridge as that marks the Zone boundary line.

After returning to South Hills Junction, retrace your route on Warrington Av to Saw Mill Run Blvd.

Continue in the right lane on PA51 North (Saw Mill Run Blvd) look for a massive, blocky concrete overpass. This carried the Wabash Railroad over Saw Mill Run Blvd. Immediately after the overpass, turn right at the light onto Woodruff.

Less than 1/4 mile look for red, white and blue parallelogram sign for Wabash Tunnel construction site. Park here and take a look at the south portal. If it's still daylight, walk down the hill to Saw Mill Run Blvd and run across the street. Follow the line of the former RR and through a sort of a parking lot. There is a very cool stone tunnel with a fluted vault ceiling. (If you don't want to walk down and back to the car, drive down Woodruff to Saw Mill Run Blvd and park in the lot for US Filter on the right.)

Back on the road, continue on PA51 North to cross over I-279 at the western portal of the Fort Pitt Tunnel. You will then have the choice to follow PA51 to Downtown and West End -- or I-279 Carnegie and Airport. The latter will take you back to I-79.

Full listing of Pittsburgh Tunnels

There are other interesting tunnels, but none as large or significant as those mentioned here. This Driving Tour begins and ends in the West End. Somewhat nearby are the following tunnels: Corliss, N&W RR under Greentree, Stowe and N&W RR Greentree Rd in Scott Twp.

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Page created: Page created: 20-Jun-2000
Last modified: 20-Jun-2000