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Mysterious world of tunnels lie below students' feet

April 22, 2003

While most people can navigate campus as the crow flies, Bill McCreary knows his way around as the mole digs.

McCreary worked maintenance on the miles of steam tunnels under MSU for 15 years and knows how to make his way from Hubbard Hall to the Red Cedar River - underground.

"They're pretty good sized tunnels, most of them you can get through all right," the 76-year-old Lansing resident said. "It's not bad at all. It's hot, but that's where the steam goes. There's water, electricity, telephone lines and air. It's pretty interesting."

University engineer Bob Nestle said there are about 10.5 miles of tunnels running through both north and south campus. The steam from the tunnels is transferred into steam lines which travel under bridges over the Red Cedar River.

The tunnels, which are about 7 square feet, are up to 90 years old in the north end of campus.

"Inside those tunnels are steam and condensate lines that provide steam for campus buildings which turns into condensate in the building and goes back through the tunnels to power plant and gets turned into steam again," Nestle said.

Audrey Brockhaus said she thinks the tunnels are used for more than just steam regulation.

While walking across campus last summer, the interdisciplinary studies in biological sciences junior noticed something suspicious in front of the Administration Building.

"Men in suits came out of those tunnels, they were walking out," she said. "It almost seems like it's a bomb shelter they don't want us to know about, like a weird backup plan for a nuclear war or something."

And although there hasn't been much of a problem in recent years as far as tunnel break-ins go, Nestle warns it's not a good idea to go searching for them as there is high potential for serious injury or even death once inside.

"The key concern about people being in these tunnels is that steam is carried in the pipes down there at about 90 PSI," he said. "The tunnels are very hot, you could be overcome by heat."

For more on this story please see Wednesday's edition of The State News.

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