It’s hard to miss Tom Corbett’s attack on Dan Onorato for what Corbett calls “the tunnel to nowhere.”

But now the Republican responsible for that tunnel has come to Onorato’s defense.

“Dan Onorato in no way was involved in the decision or involved in carrying out or managing the project,” says former County Commissioner Bob Cranmer, a Republican.

Cranmer said it was he and later Republican county executive Jim Roddey who were in power when the tunnel was approved and funded.

“Dan was a city councilman at the time. Those decisions were in no way made by City Council,” Cranmer said a press conference Tuesday morning.

Cranmer said it was Republican Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum who got the federal funding to extend the Port Authority T to the North Shore.

“Rick Santorum was the biggest proponent of getting the funds from the federal government to fund that extension,” he said.

North Side resident and former city Urban Redevelopment Authority Director Stanley Lowe took umbrage at Corbett’s assertion that the North Side is “nowhere.”

“We are somewhere. We are a destination place,” he said.

Heinz Field, PNC Park, Rivers Casino and the Carnegie Science Center, along with restaurants and hotels, notes Lowe, “From the minute you touch down on any bridge leading from the Downtown to the North Side, you will see activity happening.”

County Council President Rich Fitzgerald said once Onorato inherited the Republican project, stopping it would have cost local taxpayers more than the $12 million they paid.

“Had Dan Onorato decided to stop this project when he took office in January of 2004, it would have cost this county over $48 million that we would have had to return to the federal government in design and construction costs,” Fitzgerald noted.

Now Corbett continues to stand behind his ad, saying Onorato should have pulled the plug on the project once in office, even if it meant lost tax dollars.

Today, Cranmer defended the project saying it was a good one, linking an important and growing part of the city to downtown.

But, in any case, he says, it was never Onorato’s tunnel.