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Into the underground: A sneak peek of PCCs biggest secret

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They are hidden beneath us as we walk along this campus, accessible only by descending a long spiraling staircase. And at the bottom lies one of the college’s biggest secrets: an underground mobile tunnel system.

One of the many tunnels underneath the PCC campus, this one leading from the V building to the C building Oct 7, 2013.  The tunnels probably date back to the construction of the first buildings in 1924 and include old heating steam tunnels, modern communication infrastructure and passages. (Courier/Benjamin Simpson)

One of the many tunnels underneath the PCC campus, this one leading from the V building to the C building Oct 7, 2013. The tunnels probably date back to the construction of the first buildings in 1924 and include old heating steam tunnels, modern communication infrastructure and passages. (Courier/Benjamin Simpson)

The enormous room, 20 feet below the campus walkways, was dim and cold with massive hunks of machinery lining its walls, lies 20 feet below the campus walkways. To the left, a door with the words “To C-Building” written on sharpie leads to the underground tunnel system.

Facilities Supervisor Donald Eckmann unlocked the large steel door, revealing a small ladder leading to a square opening only about three feet wide.

“This one is pretty small, as you can see,” Eckmann said. “There’s not a lot of room. They all vary. Some of them you have to crawl through. There are very few of them that you can stand up and walk through.”

In virtually every building on campus, there is at least one entrance to this underground system.

From the V Building to the C Building, from the E Building to the GM Building, from the Facilities Services offices to the Library, the entrances may go even beyond the walls of this campus, if it were not for the high secrecy of it all.

Many students have no idea that the tunnel system exists, meaning this secret has been very well kept. But why is there so much secrecy regarding the tunnels?

To Eckmann, the tunnel system is a weapon in disguise.

“We kind of want to be cautious about talking about them,” he said on the phone discreetly. “In the event of an issue, we may not be able to get into specifics.”

Director of Facilities Rueben Smith whispered one morning that the tunnels have many faces to them that must be kept under wraps.

“There are certain things we don’t want people to see,” he said.

According to Eckmann, the tunnels have many uses, including some that were not so top secret.

Facilities Services uses the tunnel system on a regular basis to make repairs on heating units, water chillers and even fiber optic cable lines.

Yes, the tunnels are used to transport hundreds of data lines, sewage pipes, and hidden escape routes.

The Campus Police also use the tunnels, but just for training purposes, according to Officer Jose Arechiga.

“The SWAT team even uses them for training from time to time,” he said.

So when did these tunnels show up? The answer is not concrete.

According to CAD technician Jamie Flitter, the tunnels have been here as early as 70 years ago.

One of the many tunnels underneath the PCC campus, this one leading from the V building to the C building Oct 7, 2013.  The tunnels probably date back to the construction of the first buildings in 1924 and include old heating steam tunnels, modern communication infrastructure and passages. (Courier/Benjamin Simpson)

(Courier/Benjamin Simpson)

“Looking back at our site plans, it appears that the tunnel system—or some version of what is currently there—was in place fairly early on. I have plans from the 1940s that show these tunnels,” she said.

Some of the tunnels have been built and closed off in tandem to certain buildings on campus as well, according to Eckmann.

In the hidden room below the V Building is another tunnel entrance on the opposite side. When the door opens this time, however, a cement wall appears.

“Some of the tunnels have been closed off,” he said. “This one used to go to the old T Building. The Center for the Arts is there now.”

Flitter, who has worked at PCC for decades, thought the tunnels were historic and very neat, even if they have to keep hidden.

“The tunnels are pretty cool,” she said. “[But] we have to be conscientious of our distribution of plans and site information, as it is a safety concern.”

Maybe one day these tunnels will see some more light of day – figuratively of course – but for now, these hidden treasures will be kept under our feet.

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