Tunnels Under Duluth Remain Some of the City’s Oldest Infrastructure

The tunnels under Duluth are a part of the city's storm drain system

DULUTH, Minn. –¬†Infrastructure development was booming at the turn of the twentieth century in Duluth and under it.

The tunnels of Duluth were built to convey water under major roads without disrupting the city above.

“They are durable. That blue stone doesn’t wear away. The bottoms of them are still on their original bedrock channel,” city program coordinator Todd Carlson said.

Each tunnel is unique and follows the path of the creek or stream it was built on.

Todd Carlson is the tunnel expert for the city. He inspects the tunnels, like the one over Chester Creek, every couple of years.

You can see where the tunnel was built in different parts- under Superior Street, under Jefferson Street and under the historic armory.

“They actually had to set the armory onto the creek and build the tunnel underneath that and then convey across London Road,” Carlson said.

Duluth’s storm and sanitary systems are separate from each other.

These storm tunnels could overflow if sticks and leaves from people’s yards were to drain into them.

“It’s a smaller drainage area, smaller watershed, smaller tunnel system, yet the concept is still the same. Convey that water through the community and eventually out to Lake Superior,” Carlson said about a smaller tunnel over Brewery Creek.

The Brewery Creek tunnel was built right on the bedrock channel of the stream.

“When you look at this tunnel, stone sidewalls, arch top, built at the turn of the century, that’s our heritage, that’s our history,” Carlson said.

Carlson says tunnels like these could no longer be built to last so long, so it’ll be more worth to take care of the tunnels Duluth already has and see them stick around for another hundred years.

“That really is kind of what the city is, is built on a foundation of these tunnels close to the bedrock that rises up and lets us all live our daily lives without ever knowing we’re crossing as many creeks as we have or as many trout streams,” Carlson said.

The tunnels aren’t safe for people to walk through regularly.

To maintain their integrity, Carlson says it’s best for community members to keep an eye on them from afar.

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