PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It didn’t use to be this way.
“We had been in the tunnels for years,” recalled Verizon Wireless operations director Dave Yetsko.
Yetsko said PennDOT told them to take their cell phone equipment out when PennDOT began to refurbish the tunnels a couple years ago.
“As part of that refurb project, all the carriers needed to remove their infrastructure,” Yetsko said.
That created an infamous dead zone.
How many times have you gone through one of our tunnels in Pittsburgh on your cell phone and as you go through the tunnel you have to tell the party at the other end, ‘I’m gonna lose you. I’m in a tunnel.’
PennDOT says that uniquely Pittsburgh experience is about to end.
“Monday, June 20, we begin at the Squirrel Hill Tunnel,” says Dan Cessna, PennDOT’s District 11 director.
Cessna told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Thursday that the long local loss of signal is almost over, starting with the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.
“We will be doing 45 nights of single lane restrictions from about 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. to install a conduit system, and then, ultimately, the antenna system,” says Cessna.
The Ft. Pitt Tunnel and the Liberty Tubes will follow shortly and, says Cessna, are not as complicated as the Squirrel Hill Tunnel because they already have a conduit to house the proper wiring.
Why has it taken so long?
“First and foremost, we wanted an integrated system where we have one antenna system throughout the tunnels, so there was a lot of coordination amongst the major carriers to come up with an agreement because they have to share the antenna system,” Cessna said,
Four providers – AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and Sprint — will pay for the installation work by Ericsson Communications and will lease from PennDOT — at $25,000 per tunnel per year — access for their customers.
So how soon until we get a signal?
“All the work we expect to be completed by mid-September in all three tunnels,” says Cessna.