Joseph SanSevero



I worked for the Port Authority from 1961 to 1997. In that time it has been my greatest privilege to work with and for some of the most talented people the Port Authority has ever had. I started as a clerk and had to get three promotions to make mail boy. I then took a test for Auto Mechanic and Electrician, I came out #1 for automotive and #2 for electrical. At that time in my life, I knew how to rebuild a car engine but knew nothing about electrical. As luck would have it I was offered an electrical apprentice position first so I accepted it. This was the best choice I could have made because it led me to a life I could never have imagined.

As luck would have it, I accepted a position in the Research Division of Tunnels & Bridges Department. Not many people working today know about or ever heard of the Research Division of Tunnels & Bridges. I worked for a Manager, Robert Foote, a man who had vision way ahead of his time. Our group notably had had an Electrical Engineer, Carroll White; Ronald Cunningham, Alan Gonseth, Engineers, Harvey Gold and John Callaghan, my supervisor who was another person with vision.

Some of the projects we worked on over the years:
We used photo cells to count cars in the Tunnels; after a few years we then researched and utilized Vehicle Detectors that use wire loops imbedded in the roadway to count cars. Using computers, we could tell the length and speed of vehicles in the roadway. The previous sentence sounds like -- what’s the big deal? Well let me explain: to utilize photo cells we bought actual surplus Army gun sights used in WWII and embedded the cells at the focal point of the gun sights using light in reverse direction to magnify the light on the cells surface. We then drilled holes in the tunnel roadway and built a holder for the gun sights in the lower ducts of the tunnel. This was the technology of the day.
We then heard about vehicle detectors and tested every one that was on the market at the time. We then wrote the specifications of the detectors we needed and put out a bid to get the detectors used today.

By the way I worked nights for years, first drilling holes every 500 feet in the tunnel roadways for the photo cells then using diamond wheel cutters to cut lines in the roadway to lay 4’ x 6’ wire loops every 500 feet and using the holes drilled for the photo cells to bring the wires to the lower ducts to these new vehicle detectors.

As part of this overall job we pulled a 100-pair cable through tunnel conduits in the side walls all the way to the Administration Buildings where we had three mini computers. We tapped into the Red/Green/Yellow lights of the tunnel ceilings and the vehicle detectors information to bring this information to the Administration Buildings for the computers. We designed the interface to the computers ourselves (this was not something you could buy).

We designed information panels and installed monitors from the tunnel roadways and installed three HP mini computers in the Administration Building. Two computers worked in tandem to notify the desk of possible stoppages in the tunnel roadway.

I built a small microcomputer below Lane 10 at the Lincoln Tunnel too. I built a light panel in the lane with buttons for the toll collectors to use in collecting tolls. The information from the buttons was processed by my microcomputer and sent to the HP mini-computer at the Administration Building across the street. This research was ultimately used for the new toll system used by the Port Authority.

Coming back to ceiling lights, over-height trucks were constantly knocking them down, so my supervisor who had worked at the airports got some runway lights used on the active runways and theorized-- why not use them on the ceilings? -- so we drilled a hole big enough to hold them and put a spring on the top so if they were hit they would go up then back down. So, again we worked nights to drill holes in the ceilings working on top of a special truck created by the Port Authority to change ceiling lights. We only did two light stations to prove the concept then SEMAC got the contract to do the whole tunnel.

Something you may not know when we worked in the tunnels many years ago, the PA used to wash the tunnel walls by hand; they would send in a crew of maintenance workers to scrub the walls with brooms.

The project I really liked was putting a leaky cable on the Tunnel walls (A leaky cable is a coaxial cable that has small sections of its copper shielding stripped away to allow radio frequency (RF) signals to escape.)

We would then use a special carrier wave to transmit all the frequencies of local radio stations into this cable, which would leak into the roadway. This is why you can listen to your radio in our tunnels. As part of this project, I went to every tall building near the entrance and exit of the Lincoln Tunnel and measured the power levels of every radio station so that no one could complain about their station not being heard.

At the request of Bob Kelly, I did a short stint at TRANSCOM and tested slow scan TV images from a moving remote vehicle to the large screen at TRANSCOM. You have to realize this was before the advent of Cell Phones so this technology did not exist before.

I went on learn more about Slow Scan TV and set up a command room at the TB&T conference room with Slow Scan TV images over telephone dial-up from each facility. I helped in the design and creation of two of the most technology advanced conference rooms for the PORT Department.

I became the Network Administrator in charge of all Computers, first for TB&T and then for the PORT Department. I have to say the Port Authority allowed me to use all of my talents to my fullest.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to start work at 111 8th Ave.

My greatest honor was to receive the Robert F. Wagner Distinguished Service Medal for my work in information technology, video and electronics. See Below:

Robert F. Wagner Distinguished Public Service Medal

Is hereby awarded to

Joseph W. SanSevero

Management Information Specialist

The Port Authority of New York & New jersey

December 10, 1993

At the Port Authority of NY & NJ, the words Joe SanSevero and technology are synonymous.  His substantial contributions in the area of information technology, video and electronics have earned him a reputation that extends well beyond the boundaries in which he has worked.  Joe’s extensive depth of knowledge, his zeal and commitment to ferreting out new solutions to vexing problems, and his willingness to respond to his customers distinguish him as one of the Port Authority’s finest career employees.

In his 30-year contribution to the agency, Joe has progressed from several positions in the electrical field, to Senior Research Analyst, to his present position as a Management Information specialist in the Port Department.  This career mirrors the increasingly sophisticated and broad role that technology has come to have in the Port Authority.  It is particularly remarkable that Joe has met this computer challenge because most of his expertise is self-taught.

Joe’s many accomplishments have been both in field locations and World Trade Center offices.  In his previous position in the Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals Department he made significant contributions to the development and installation of systems for traffic control and measurement and toll automation.  Joe conceived of and implemented a self-contained, mobile slow scan video system capable of transmitting on the spot traffic information and disruption from remote locations to TRANSCOM via a cellular phone system.   This innovative combination of two communication media was a first for the agency and probably the region.  

In the Port Department he has been instrumental in advancing the department’s information technology capabilities and computer literacy.  His foresight in applying new technologies to meet business needs was demonstrated in the design of conference rooms for the relocated department that boast state of the art computer and audio systems for meetings and presentations.  He was the driving force behind the installation of a PC network for marketing and sales and, in a time of limited resources successfully demonstrated the merits of expanding the network to allow staff to communicate more easily with other users and to and to expand access to corporate systems.  Joe impressed the entire department during the time of the temporary relation from the WTC to Port Newark/Elizabeth when he used his powers of persuasion and excellent vendor contacts to install enough PC’s by the time all staff returned to enable priority projects to continue uninterrupted.  A short time later, he had established networks in four separate staff locations that virtually allowed the department to resume business as usual.  Despite the emergency nature of the situation he did not let an opportunity pass him by to test new technology.

Joe richly deserves this medal award as a testament to his expertise and unparalleled dedication to providing practical unique solutions to meet his customers’ and the agency’s technological needs.  Joseph SanSevero is hereby awarded the Robert F. Wagner Distinguished Public Service Medal.




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