While not visible to most of us, members of the University community wouldnt be able to go about their daily activities without the support provided by the utilities housed in the maze of tunnels that snake beneath Central Campus. And while some sections were built as recently as 1993, a few go back 100 years and are in need of repair.
One section of the tunnel has finally aged beyond repair, however, and will be demolished and rebuilt this spring. A 100-foot section of the South State Street tunnel from the Museum of Art to the Michigan Union will begin a transformation this week. First the existing utilities that run through the tunnel will be re-routed. Then asbestos will be removed and excavation will begin.
Weve held on as long as we can with the tunnel under the street, says Richard Robben, director of Utilities and Maintenance Services. After years of traffic overhead and corrosion from the winter salt, the tunnel cant be patched any longer.
Unfortunately, much of the work for the $1.7 million project will necessitate closing lanes of State Street in front of the Union MayAugust.
Traffic on State Street will be down to one lane northbound during the first phase of construction MayJune, explains Dave Sprow, project engineer from the Plant Extension Department. Then well be able to provide one lane in each direction until the project is complete. The contractor will be fencing in construction staging areas on both the east and west sides of State Street. Pedestrians will be routed to the sidewalk directly in front of the Museum of Art.
Since the State Street area is so integral to the July art fairs, reconstruction work will stop during the third week of July and the area will be returned to its pre-construction appearance. After the art fairs, the last stages of finishing the new tunnel and reconnecting the utilities will be completed prior to fall student move-in.
Pictures from the early construction days are on the Central Power
Plant Web site
( www.plantops.umich.edu/utility/Utilities/CentralPowerPlant/Power_Plant_History.html ) and show many men, complete with soft (not hard) hats, digging the first tunnels.