Ten Tunnels of Texas: Some Pretty, Some Odd, Some Bat-Infested

A while back we presented a dozen of the most beautiful bridges in Texas, a state most people don't normally associate with bridges.

They associate it even less with tunnels. Texas isn't exactly a mountainous state, and wherever there's a big outcropping there's generally room enough to go around it.

But you'd be surprised just how many tunnels there are here. Some are in full use, some were never meant for vehicle or rail traffic, but all add a part to underground Texas.

Here are ten:

10. Clarity Tunnel, near Quitaque Up in the Panhandle sits what was the last working railroad tunnel in Texas, not counting light-rail-type urban things.

The 742-foot-long tunnel was part of the Fort Worth and Denver South Plains Railway and is now part of a hiking trail in Caprock Canyons State Park. And yes, there are bats in there in season.

9. Washburn Tunnel, near Houston Now here's a tunnel that looks like it could be a relation to famous urban tunnels like the Lincoln or Holland.

The Washburn goes under the Ship Channel between the lovely, bucolic burgs of Galena Park and Pasadena, and its 1950 pump technology made it flood-proof. Until Ike, that is.

The Washburn used to have a sister tunnel, the Baytown, but that was replaced in 1995 by the Fred Hartman Bridge, one of our dozen beauties.

8. Supercollider, Waxahachie They built it and no one came.

The Supercollider was supposed to be a $4.4 billion project (just coincidentally in the district of House Speaker Jim Wright), but it ballooned to over $12 billion before Congress pulled the plug.

That left 14 miles of tunnel under Waxahachie. The tunnel, and the support buildings above it, are abandoned but for sale if you have a really great idea on how to use them.

7. UT's steam tunnel system, Austin There's about seven miles of tunnel under the University of Texas, an enticing dare for generations of amateur spelunkers and breaking-inners. There's even been a movie about it all.

Getting in is a lot more difficult than it used to be, but the tunnels are still there to be explored.

6. The Rio Grande Tunnel, Big Bend National Park Come on, it's a tunnel!!!! It's got an opening and is underground (for a little bit)!! it's even got a name!!

This Texas highways site says the tunnel was built in 1959 to replace a stretch of road named Dead Man Curve, which is usually a good idea.

5. Tandy Center Subway, Fort Worth For almost 40 years Cowtown residents and visitors were wowed by the Tandy Center Subway, which took them from a parking lot to shopping destinations until it closed in 2002.

It was seven-tenths of a mile long and the only privately operated subway in the country, they say.

Here's the gleaming end of the line:

4. Old Tunnel, near Fredericksburg Part of the smallest Wildlife Management Area in Texas (about 16 acres), the 920-foot Old Tunnel is now home to three million bats in season, and Hill Country visitors head there at sunset to watch them take flight, usually with a beer in hand. (The visitors, not the bats.)

This informative site includes this vintage picture of the tight squeeze trains had back in the day.

3. Addison Airport Toll Tunnel, near Dallas This 1,600-foot tunnel goes under Addison Airport in suburban Dallas, cost about $20 million to build and will set you back 50 cents to use it. It is spiffy and modern, though.

2. Houston's downtown tunnel system Houstonians know that when a visitor -- usually a journalist -- comes to the city in August, a comment will be made about how dead the downtown streets seem even at lunchtime.

That's because we're not idiotic enough to go walking around in August in what Tiom Wolfe in The Right Stuff called "a mass of mushy asphalt, known as downtown."

There's about seven miles of stores, restaurants and inexplicably empty stretches down there, and you will need to check the maps because it's a bit hodge-podge. But at least you won't be sweating yourself to death, or embarrassment.

1. The satanic tunnels of Athens

There are people who are convinced the town of Athens sits over a tunnel system that's shaped

as a pentagram

. (Cue the "

O Fortuna.


Read all about it.....if you dare.

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