A Brief Chronology - Fort Pitt Tunnels and Penn Lincoln Parkway
In response to an e-mail inquiry (from a TV news reporter applying for a job in Pittsburgh [she got the job]):
> > I am looking for some history regarding the Fort Pitt Tunnels and the Parkway. < <
The first tunnels through Mt Washington were the South Hills Trolley Tunnel and the Wabash Tunnel, both in 1904.
While some improvement to the link between the South Hills and downtown was widely supported, there was much debate. Whether to go over it via inclines or a hillside road, around it via the West End and Saw Mill Run, or through it.
Early proposals for the 1919-24 Liberty Tunnels included two routes which were very near location of the present Fort Pitt Tunnel. One of these was the Shalersville plan, which was supported by the towns which would be favored: Carnegie, Scott Twp, Robinson Twp, Greentree, Crafton, etc.
This group lost, of course...at that time.
Read about the development of the Point, which played a part in the location of the Fort Pitt Tunnels:
view page - Portal Bridge
The PA Turnpike was authorized in 1937 and established the model for the soon to be planned "Pitt Parkway." It also would bring more traffic to the eastern end of the area -- leading to the necessity for a new east-west highway locally.
In 1939, New York City traffic planner and parks superintendent, Robert Moses, submitted a plan for a comprehensive highway system around and through Pittsburgh. The plan included the "Pitt Parkway" from Wilkinsburg/Churchill (William Penn Highway) to downtown. The plan was estimated to cost $38 million.
The Moses Plan was begun the following year with the construction of Duquesne Way (Fort Duquesne Blvd). Water St had been rebuilt as Fort Pitt Blvd in 1939-40 at a cost of $3 million. The PA Turnpike also opened in 1940, ending at US30 in Irwin.
The contracts for the Pitt Parkway, estimated at $20 million for 9.5 miles, were awarded in 1943 but work was postponed until after the war.
By 1946, the highway had been named the Penn Lincoln Parkway as it would carry US22 (William Penn Highway) and US30 (Lincoln Highway).
In 1950, plans were revealed for the Parkway West -- just as Gateway Center was beginning to rise and the buildings in the Point Park area began to fall.
The Turnpike was extended past to Ohio in 1951 and added to the traffic entering from the east.
In 1953, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development announced plans for a toll tunnel through Mt. Washington as the best way to finance the link to the Parkway West.
The Squirrel Hill Tunnels opened in June 1951 after more than three years of construction. They are very similar in design to the Fort Pitt Tunnels which would be built soon after.
Read a description of the routing of the Parkway East and the location of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels:
view page - Parkway East Fieldnotes
In October, the $15 milion Parkway West was opened, but without the Fort Pitt Tunnels. Traffic at this time would have followed the West End Bypass toward downtown.
Read the West End Bridge article for info about highway history nearby:
view page - West End North Side Bridge
July 11, 1954, contracts were awarded for the basic design of the Fort Pitt Tunnels. The construction contracts totalling just over $10 million for the downtown section for the Parkway west of Grant St and the Fort Pitt Bridge were awarded in January, 1956.
The Fort Pitt Tunnels groundbreaking ceremony was held April 17, 1957. And the drilling began August 28. Estimated cost for the new tunnels was $17 million.
In 1958, downtown was finally linked to the Parkway at Grant St. On March 31, Mayor David L. Lawrence and Governor George L. Leader activated an explosive charge which created and opening in the top arc of the Tunnels' north portal above West Carson St. One year and one month later, the Fort Pitt Bridge opened -- leading only to and from West Carson St.
The Fort Pitt Tunnels were opened on September 1, 1960, as the last link in the Penn Lincoln Parkway.
Read pages related to Fort Pitt Bridge:
view page - Fort Pitt Bridge
view page - Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne Bridges replace earlier spans
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