Leaking Oklahoma Capitol tunnel provides damp welcome

Repairs to the underground passageway from the east side of the Oklahoma Capitol under N Lincoln Boulevard to parking lots east of the street should be considered, Capitol preservationists say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: July 8, 2013 at 10:00 pm •  Published: July 8, 2013
Advertisement
;

It leaks. It's moldy. It smells bad.

The tunnel under N Lincoln Boulevard is the main entrance to the state Capitol for those who park in parking lots for vehicles and buses on the east side of the street.

It's the first impression for many visitors and Oklahoma students.

Water seeps through the walls and roof of the 650-foot-long underground passageway anytime significant rains occur. Buckets and barrels are placed to catch water from the biggest leaks; female state prison inmates assigned to the work detail at the Capitol usually are dispatched during regular business hours to squeegee water.

“It can get downright disgusting in there,” said John Estus, a spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which oversees a division that deals with the maintenance of state buildings. “It's not a pleasant area after it's rained, especially if it's rained a lot. It's flooded numerous times over the years.”

As a study is developed on how to spend $120 million over the next two years repairing the nearly 100-year-old Capitol, some are saying the tunnel needs to be included in those discussions.

Duane Mass, the Capitol architect, said the tunnel issues need to be addressed. The idea of digging up the tunnel to replace its waterproofing system is expensive; one of the trouble spots is right under the street.

“I really hope that it is dealt with,” Mass said. “If we decide to deal with it in five years, it will just be a lot more expensive in five years.”

The Capitol certainly can function without the tunnel, but the tunnel, which was built in the late 1960s, is what makes the east parking lots work, Mass said. The tunnel provides a safe entrance from the east; the other option is to walk across two lanes of traffic and an access lane to NE 23.

“Without the tunnel, the east parking lot is untenable,” Mass said. “They park a lot of the buses over in the east.”

‘It's probably

a lower priority'

Estus said repairs to the tunnel could be part of overall Capitol repairs, but it won't be known until the project completion plan is done.

No members have yet been appointed to a nine-member commission reconfigured this year that will is charged with overseeing Capitol repairs.

“Candidly, it's probably a lower priority than some of the other issues,” he said.

“It is possible that some resources could be directed to the tunnel.”

Pieces of limestone have been falling the past two years from the building's exterior. Much of the electrical wiring is outdated and the plumbing system is failing.

Continue reading this story on the...

   Please Login to your Facebook account to see comments