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Great American Infrastructure: Houston Tunnel System, Houston, TX

Posted by Content Coordinator on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

This is the twenty-third in a series of entries celebrating infrastructure achievements in the United States.

What: The Houston Tunnel System is an underground series of pedestrian walkways that is 20 feet (6m) below street level and links 95 full city blocks in downtown Houston.

When: The first link was built by former Texas Governor Ross Sterling in the 1930’s and despite never being formally planned, the Tunnel System has been expanding ever since.

Length: Approximately 7 miles (11 km) long


Interesting facts: Access to the Tunnel System is normally on weekdays from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m, in order to assist workers in the downtown Houston area.

Rockefeller Center inspired Houston’s first tunnel link. This short tunnel connected former Governor Sterling’s 1926 Post-Dispatch Building with another one of his buildings, the 1931 Sterling Building.

Movie theater entrepreneur Will Horwitz also helped nurture the tunnel system idea with his own incarnation, connecting three of his theaters to save on air-conditioning and create a mini-network.

Architectural historian Stephen Fox believes the concept of a tunnel “system” began with the Bank of the Southwest Building (now Bank One), in 1956, which was linked by tunnel to the 1010 Garage and the Mellie Esperson Building.

Check out the Houston Tunnel System in action (and try not to get too lost!):

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