PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Commuters that use the Squirrel Hill Tunnels can forget about using the radio and cell phones at least through 2014 while construction is going on.

“As part of the rehabilitation project, the cell phone transmitters need to be turned off both for the safety of our workers and also for the construction,” PennDOT Spokesperson Jim Struzzi said.

Crews will be removing the ceiling inside the tunnel and that’s where the antennas are located.

The providers were notified two years ago that they would have to have this equipment turned off in advance of the project and essentially, that is what happens now,” Struzzi said.

With no cell phone service, you may wondering what happens if there is an emergency inside the tunnel and you have to call 911.

PennDOT said that is not a concern and there is already a plan for that.

“We have staff on site at all the tunnels 24/7, every day of the year. We are constantly monitoring the interior of the tunnels for any incidents that occur. Most likely even if an incident occurred, motorists wouldn’t be calling 911 because we would be there,” Struzzi said.

As for the radio signal, students from Carnegie Mellon University installed receptors years ago as part of a school project. Those students have since moved on, so no one has been maintaining the equipment.

New AM and FM equipment will be installed as part of the current rehab work.

For now, some commuters don’t mind the silence.

“I don’t use my cell phone on the road anyways, so it really doesn’t affect me and the radio, I can go a few minutes without,” Crystal Lynch said.

The project itself is right on track and the schedule for the full weekend closures for the inbound side will be released soon.


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