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
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
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
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