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SMC to close underground campus tunnels

Angela Saoud | Monday, November 29, 2004

After nearly a century of use, the Saint Mary’s underground tunnel system, which connects many buildings on campus, will close to pedestrians Dec. 18. Judith Johns, CEO of the Holy Cross Services Corporation, made the announcement Monday in a written press release. Due to changing codes and regulations on the underground utilities housed in the tunnels, Saint Mary’s must now abide by the changes and close the tunnels to the campus. While Saint Mary’s owns College classroom and administrative buildings, the tunnels are owned by and are the responsibility of the HCSC.”The tunnels were originally designed to provide utilities between buildings on campus and, as such, they contain steam lines, electric power, water lines, communications and other systems that are now subject to newer, more restrictive code requirements,” Johns said. HCSC director of communications Barbara Wade said after reviewing new building safety codes as they pertain Saint Mary’s, it was not possible to keep the utility tunnels open to pedestrian use.”Some of the tunnels have been in use for 75 years and have been used by pedestrians since the beginning,” she said.For decades, students, faculty, staff and Holy Cross sisters have used the tunnels to get from building to building, especially during the winter months. In the area leading to Haggar College Center, each graduating class has painted a mural on the cement walls, which will now go unseen after Dec. 18. But some students said the planned closure caused more worry about safety rather than tradition.”I think it will lead to security risks when we have to walk around an entire building to get to the library late at night,” senior Jodie Emerick said. “It’s not that it’s an inconvenience, it’s just a safety issue.”According to Wade, the HCSC is working with Saint Mary’s to discuss changes to the ID card swipe system used to access the tunnels. In certain areas, barriers will be put up to keep pedestrians out of the tunnels. As for a chance of reopening the tunnels reopening, Wade said it would be unlikely.”We don’t foresee that happening,” Wade said. “Although this was a disappointment, we found there were no other options available.”