How to Get Around the Squirrel Hill Tunnel
The Squirrel Hill Tunnels are a popular way to commute to work, but navigating them can be tricky. This 4,225-foot long tunnel can cause delays and congestion for 102,000 motorists daily. Asad Khattak, an engineer at the Old Dominion University, says the tunnels’ narrow lanes and walls limit visibility. Other Old Dominion professors, including psychology professor Mark Scerbo, suggest claustrophobia could be a factor in the tunnels’ congestion.
Route 51 bypass
The Squirrel Hill Tunnel is one of the most notorious traffic jams on the Parkway. In fact, it is notorious for causing traffic back-ups and tractor-trailer accidents. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has already attempted to improve visibility by raising the ceiling in the first 100 feet. Still, the traffic jams persist, and many drivers would rather just exit the highway and take the detour through a park.
A 24-mile section of highway would link Oakland, Monroeville, and Pittsburgh, and would include a bypass around the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. Other sections of the $5 billion highway network are currently under construction. The project has received support from local politicians, state officials, and the public. State Turnpike Commissioners met with state representatives and Pittsburgh mayor Luke Ravenstahl to discuss the plan. The commission also held a public meeting with the local planning and development communities.
If you are interested in cycling through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, then you’re in luck. Beginning in June, the right lane of the tunnel will be converted into a dedicated bike lane. This lane will be accessible from the Regent Square ramp and will continue to 376 East. Cyclists will exit the tunnel via the new bike ramp. The route is also a popular recreational destination, allowing cyclists to travel on foot or by bicycle through Pittsburgh’s historic neighborhoods.
As you ride through the tunnel, you’ll pass fern-covered cliffs and small streams. The air smells of earth and you’re sweaty from the climb. The third tunnel is particularly drenched and wet, but it’s well worth it. Once you’ve made the trip through the tunnel, you’ll find a stone arch guarding the entrance to one of three tunnels.
The Squirrel Hill Tunnel is four miles long and sees nearly 102,000 motorists a day. The tunnel is undergoing renovations, but there are some surprises along the way. WTAE’s Sam Hall took the opportunity to discuss the problems of driving through the tunnels and ways to ease traffic. In this video, he explains how public transit can make it much easier to get around Pittsburgh.
The Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be closed Friday and Saturday for construction, and drivers are encouraged to take alternate routes. Route 28 and Interstate 79 provide access to the Turnpike. The last time the tunnel was closed, traffic became so bad that epic backups were created. In the past two weekends, the inbound tunnel was closed from 9 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, and the outbound tunnel would reopen when the equipment was moved.
Inbound traffic to the Squirrel Hill Tunnel will be closed this weekend due to a tree crash. In addition, the Liberty Tunnel will close periodically for maintenance. The Pittsburgh Penguins will play the first game of their Stanley Cup semifinal series on Sunday at PNC Park. Brad Paisley will be performing at the Niagara Pavilion. In any event, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation encourages drivers to find alternative routes. Here are some driving routes to get around the tunnel.
Drivers may wish to try a daytime route. This option avoids the dense business district around the Squirrel Hill Tunnel. The traffic back-up typically begins at three p.m. and continues through 6 p.m. PennDOT has tried several different solutions to the problem, including installing stronger lighting in the first 100 feet of the tunnel and removing the ceiling. But all these fixes are unsatisfactory and won’t be fully effective without additional funding.
Jessica Watson is a PHD holder from the University of Washington. She studied behavior and interaction between squirrels and has presented her research in several wildlife conferences including TWS Annual Conference in Winnipeg.