Underground tunnels for new buildings not in university’s plans

An expansion of the tunnel system is not planned for the walk between the new buildings on St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus because of underground barriers and cost limitations, said Gerald Anderley, associate vice president for facilities.

<p>No new tunnels will be added to the St. Thomas campus because of cost limitations and underground barriers. (Laura Landvik/TommieMedia)</p>
No new tunnels will be added to the St. Thomas campus because of cost limitations and underground barriers. (Laura Landvik/TommieMedia)

Many students said they expected to have underground tunnels built with the recent construction of the Anderson Student Center and the Anderson Athletics Recreational Complex as a way to stay out of the cold.

“I was hoping they would (build tunnels),” junior Jeremy Ringler said. “They’re somewhat of a necessity.”

Although Anderley did not completely rule out the tunnel expansion, he said the project would involve a lot of work.

“Anything’s possible,” Anderley said, “but you have to have enough money, enough planning and enough foresight to get that all done.”

Anderley added that if St. Thomas were to take on the project, the university’s plumbing system would be an issue.

“We’ve got 13-inch water mains, 42-inch water sewers and a 72-inch sewer that run under the campus,” Anderley said. “You’ve got the electrical infrastructure that runs under, 13800 volts, and then the sewer system.”

Tunnel costs are steep

Although some students see the tunnels as a convenience, Anderley said they would come at a steep cost.

“We’ve looked into extending the tunnel system, but under this economy, to put that much money into tunnels and take it away from academic programs doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” Anderley said. “Especially when students would like to have less tuition instead of more.”

Anderley said the physical plant’s previous plan for a tunnel system fell through and came at an astonishing cost.

“We did look at putting a tunnel from the new Anderson Athletic Recreational Center to Aquinas, and that came up to a little over a million dollars for that short tunnel,” Anderley said.

Some students, like freshman Taylor Zimmerman, said they agree that the cost is too high.

“I don’t see what the point is with tunnels,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a lot of money to be out of the cold for two minutes.”

St. Thomas has a tunnel system for utility use that runs throughout each of the buildings on campus.

“Occasionally students get into (utility tunnels) and party. We really don’t like that,”Anderley said. “They have steam, water, condensation, electricity, electrical gas, all that stuff.”

Some students also said they are frustrated there is no tunnel system from North to South Campus, but there are no construction plans underway for a project of that caliber.

“I hate walking across traffic from North to South Campus,” Zimmerman said. “The drivers are rude.”

Anderley said that South Campus also has major infrastructure issues that prevent the university from building tunnels.

“There’s a drop shaft (used to drain rain water) right in front of The Binz… that drops 180 feet and from there goes into the river,” Anderley said.

However, Anderley said if a major housing unit were to make its way to South Campus, the project may be more feasible.

“It may be a possibility if they were ever to build major housing on (South) campus and take down Grace, Cretin, and that area to put a tunnel system in between those particular buildings,” Anderley said. “Maybe even to Brady Education Center, which isn’t a very good building, and it might come down at some point.”

Other than the cost and infrastructure, Anderley said interest is also a factor when putting in a tunnel system.

“Whenever you put in a tunnel system, whenever you do major construction, people are all for it until it begins to inconvenience them,” Anderley said. “Then they don’t want to do it.”

Laura Landvik can be reached at land7854@stthomas.edu.

4 Replies to “Underground tunnels for new buildings not in university’s plans”

  1. “Maybe even to Brady Educational Center, which isn’t a very good building…” About time someone acknowledged that.

  2. UST needs to learn to save money. They are saving money according to a recent article because of a favorable winter, and the article indicated they were going to use the money toward sidewalk repairs. Have you guys looked at the sidewalks? They’re fine. What we really need are for UST to build things that students and alumni want built – things like tunnels connecting the new buildings.

  3. Are tunnels really a necessity? First, we live in Minnesota for goodness sake. If you don’t atleast enjoy snow/cold some of the time, MOVE! Second, our campus is not that large. Does anyone know how long it takes to walk across campus? I’ll tell you! From the corner of Selby and Cleveland down to BEC it takes 16 minutes. I had to walk this everyday my sophomore year, and brace yourself, I survived. Yes, it did get very cold. However, I came to enjoy the walk, and embraced being outside. I feel as if we’re stuck in buildings all day (especially in winter) that it’s beneficial to be outside. That being said, tunnels should not even be a thought in St. Thomas’ mind.

    Here’s a thought. Invest in something that’s already exisiting and that students use on a regular basis (cough cough… BEC auditorium). For how much capital we have, BEC is one embarrassing place…

  4. Also, lets be completely honest, how many of the current students use the tunnels that we have now? I for one do not use them too often. It is nice that they are there, but sometimes during passing periond I see no one using them, since it is much faster to avoind the tunnels all together to get to class and not be late. The tunnel system we have now is alright and connects important buidlings. Since the AARC doesn’t even have a basement that they can tunnel to, and ASC has a large electrical structure, it would be almost impossible to get tunnels going to those buildings. It would cost the university a lot of money. For those students who are disappointed about it, use the tunnels we have now and make them crowded if you want more. Otherwise, I see no reason to connect those buildings together anyways.

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