Tunnel connecting Le Mans Hall and Cushwa-Leighton library to open within three months
Maeve Filbin | Wednesday, January 29, 2020
As part of the recently launched multi-year facilities update, for which Saint Mary’s received approval to issue a bond of $51.5 million, the tunnel system between Le Mans Hall and Cushwa-Leighton Library will be reopened for student use. Though the official reopening date is pending, plans to renovate the tunnels have been in place since the beginning of last semester.
In an interview with The Observer, vice president for strategy and finance Dana Strait said reopening the tunnels would ensure that the newly installed 24-hour spaces in the library are used by students, even during the colder winter months.
“We also have to ensure that they’re accessible, so that students who are in wheelchairs or who need a little bit more physical assistance … [are able] to get through,” Strait said. “So, part of opening that tunnel this fall will involve installing accessibility ramps so that they can really be used by all students.”
In a January email to students, library director Joe Thomas said the renovation work would be completed within the next three months.
The tunnel system was initially created to connect the buildings on campus to the central utility plant, Strait said in an email, and is currently owned by the Sisters of the Holy Cross.
“In this case, the Sisters were so generous as to approve reopening the tunnel for student use as part of the overall library renovation,” she said.
At one time, the tunnels connected the Convent, Holy Cross Hall, Moreau Center for the Arts, Regina Hall, Le Mans Hall, Haggar College Center and the library, Adaline Cashore, director of donor relations, said. Cashore, who graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1970, remembers traversing these underground passageways.
“They were warm and dry in the winter,” Cashore said in an email. “They were relatively well-lit and wide, but the head room was low. You could reach out above and to the side and touch the pipes. So, it’s understandable why the Sisters decided to close them to pedestrians.”
The tunnel connecting Le Mans Hall to Haggar and the library was built in 1982, when Cushwa-Leighton was first constructed and Haggar — which served as a library up until that point — was renovated, Cashore said.
“It has a completely different feel from the older network,” she said.
Since the tunnel’s original opening, it fell into disrepair over the years, and was eventually closed to the public due to dangerous conditions. However, Strait said the new renovations will make the tunnels safe and accessible for all students.
“The College is in the process of making the necessary investments to ensure that it [is in] compliance with ADA requirements and recommendations, so it is available to all students, including those with accessibility needs,” Strait said. “The College will also take care of improving the aesthetic condition of the space, incorporating fresh paint and a thorough cleaning.”
The work will be finished within the next few months, and the tunnels will be opened for student use before the end of this academic year, Strait said.
“We are hoping that April gives us at least one good snow so that students can appreciate the warmth provided by this newly-opened tunnel before the academic year is done,” she said.