By John Shumway

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — An architectural masterpiece when it opened in 1927, the twin bores of the Armstrong Tunnel have stood up to almost a century of wear.

“Structurally, the tunnel is in good condition,” says Allegheny County Public Works Director Stephen Shanley.

A lot of people depend on the curving tubes every day.

“About 12,000 vehicles a day,” says renovation project manager Michael Burdelsky.

Take a ride through the tunnel and you don’t have to have engineering expertise to see the issues.

Shanley says, “We’re getting drainage down the sides of the walls, and it’s popping off the tiles throughout the tunnel.”

So Burdelsky says tiling will be a major part of the facelift.

“Right now, we’re looking at replacing it as the most effective option,” he said.

And Shanley says the tunnel’s dingy yellow lighting is going away.

“We’re going to update all the lighting. We’ll install LED lighting so that will all be improved in this rehab,” he said.

Director Shanley says also included in the renovation will be a major safety change.

“We’re going to go down to one lane in each direction and widen out to two at the end of the tunnel,” Shanley said.

What isn’t clear is how much of the tunnel will close when the work starts in 2020, or how long the work will last.

Burdelsky says the options “are a complete closure or phased construction where one bore would be closed at a time.”

Detouring traffic through town would be an obvious disadvantage, but Shanley points out, “If we do it close the whole tunnel down, we’ll get the job done quicker.”

Burdelsky adds, “We’re really just looking for a good project where we get in and effect people as little as possible.”

While the work won’t start until 2020, which will be here before you know it, your chance to weigh in on the plan will come next Wednesday, Dec. 6, when the county holds a public meeting and lays out the plans. The meeting will be in Room 206 of the Allegheny County Courthouse at 6 p.m.

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