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Commuters can return to the Mon Incline and Wabash Tunnel after an $8.2 million renovation

Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA
With its entrance next to the Mon Incline's lower station, travel within the Wabash Tunnel was restricted to accommodate Pittsburgh Regional Transit's commuter shuttle buses throughout the renovation.

The Monongahela Incline was back up and running Monday after the completion of an $8.2 million renovation project, and with it, the Wabash Tunnel returned to its usual schedule for drivers.

Pittsburgh Regional Transit restricted tunnel travel last August to accommodate commuter shuttle buses throughout the renovation. Like the incline, the tunnel serves as a shortcut for commuters going between Mount Washington and the South Side, as well as Downtown.

Drivers now can resume using the tunnel in the inbound direction on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Traffic switches to the outbound direction at 3 p.m. and remains that way until 11 p.m.

Weekend service will look roughly the same as it did before the restrictions, with one caveat. While the tunnel will stay open in the outbound direction from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturdays, it will close at 9 p.m. on Sundays.

PRT spokesperson Adam Brandolph said the time change is due to staffing shortages the agency hopes to resolve by mid-April. Transit agency officials have reported labor gaps since the start of the pandemic, and they have responded by rolling out gradual service cuts.

Jillian Forstadt
90.5 WESA

Those shortages, however, will not affect service at the reopened Mon Incline. The oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the U.S., the historic site underwent repairs during seven months to improve its mechanical and electrical system.

Visitors to the upper station will also get a new view: glass flooring that allows visitors to see straight to the incline’s mechanical center.

“It's kind of a transparent view that most Pittsburghers and visitors have never been able to see in 150 years,” Brandolph said.

Colorful new track lights can be seen from Downtown, too. Controlled by one central panel, their colors can be changed easily to mark different celebrations, Brandolph said.

While reopening service Monday was delayed by a couple of hours due to a glitch impacting the car’s doors, PRT expects the 153-year-old landmark to operate without a hitch for years to come.

“We fully expect it to be up and running, with appropriate care, maintenance and the love that we give it, that it needs, for another 150 more,” Brandolph added.

The Mon Incline operates Monday through Saturday from 5:30 a.m. to midnight, and on Sundays and holidays from 8:45 a.m. to midnight.

Jillian Forstadt is an education reporter at 90.5 WESA. Before moving to Pittsburgh, she covered affordable housing, homelessness and rural health care at WSKG Public Radio in Binghamton, New York. Her reporting has appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition.