Due to rising concerns regarding criminal activity, Tech and the Georgia Tech Police Department (GTPD) have decided to close the Third Street Tunnel.
Located on East Campus between Hopkins Residence Hall and Glenn Residence Hall, the tunnel links Georgia Tech’s campus to the city of Atlanta via a walking path underneath Interstate 75. The tunnel is used by students, visitors, faculty, and other pedestrians to travel between Spring Street and Bobby Dodd Way. Prior to the closing of the tunnel, the city of Atlanta placed a pedestrian crossing on Spring Street.
“As a freshman, I lived over in the area and have used the Third Street Tunnel. While it is faster [to travel through], in my mind it was a student security concern,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president. “Even the students walking with us [on the Campus Safety Walk] thought it was a concern.”
“I guess it’s the natural thing to close it down because it is located in such a sketchy area as it is,” said Howie Zuo, second-year CHBE major. “I feel like that what they are probably going to do is just put up fences at both ends , as it is the bureaucratic way to fix something like this, but something like a fence is not going to stop people from exploiting that location.”
The decision to close the tunnel comes after the eighth annual Campus Safety Walk on April 1, during which Institute President Wayne Clough, campus administrators, police department members, and student leaders conducted a tour of the campus for unsafe areas. The Walk is organized by the Student Government Association’s Planning and Development Committee, and looks for unsafe or threatening areas on campus and the potential for improvement of those areas.
The area had been a concern for Tech administrators and faculty for years, and talk of closing the tunnel had occurred since last year’s walk.
Before the closing, moves were made to increase the safety of the tunnel and the surrounding area with increased lighting and closing tunnel gates after midnight. However, night time crime such as vagrancy and robberies was still a problem for the area.
“I think it’s a good idea, and I remember [some] questionable people coming out of there. For a lot of grad students who live off campus, they have to commute, whether they are taking the MARTA station or walking. I’m hoping that as Spring Street continues to develop, the crime problem will go away and we can reopen the tunnel,” said Aaron Fowler, graduate student body president.
Following a meeting between the GTPD, the Facilities Department, and Executive Vice President for Administration and Finance Steve Swant, it was determined that the bridges on 5th Street and North Avenue would be enough to suffice for on campus access to Tech Square and the MARTA stations. The tunnel will remain closed during all times, except for football and other events held at Bobby Dodd Stadium and Grant Field that require parking on the east side of the interstate. During those events, a security guard or police officer will be assigned there.
“The tunnel is not going to close totally. I think in the future [the administration] will look at reopening it. I would really rather have students have to walk longer than be unsafe. That’s basically my thought process behind it,” Fowler said.
In addition to the closing of the Third Street tunnel, the GTPD is also looking into increasing security to allay safety concerns on North Avenue and for the rest of campus. One idea currently in the works is an additional police substation on North Avenue.