The steam tunnels beneath McGill’s roads are crumbling, necessitating a construction project that has left students to weave around barriers and cranes on their first days of class.
Two major tunnels are currently under construction: one between the Leacock building and Morrice Hall, the other beneath the open space just inside the Milton Gates. Construction in the area was setback when a water line burst over the summer.
The University advised issued water advisories on affected buildings throughout the summer and closed others entirely. According to Robert Stanley, Project Director of Facilities Development, construction on the Leacock tunnel is still on schedule and is expected to be completed by November.
“The new tunnel will be wider, which will make it easier for servicemen to do maintenance,” he said, adding that the pedestrian tunnel will also be replaced.
Radu Juster, Project Coordinator of McGill’s Master Plan, indicated that construction around the Milton Gates will be more lengthy, with the site expanding north toward the James Administration building extending into late 2009.
“The area may not be put back the way it originally was,” said Juster. “We don’t know yet.”
McGill’s Master Plan, published in 2006 after a lengthy consultation with the McGill community and a team of consultants, outlines McGill’s goals for the campus and provides guiding principles for all campus construction jobs. The document prioritizes sustainable and environmentally–friendly construction, a commitment to community, and the preservation of heritage buildings.
While construction around the Milton Gates was motivated by the crumbling of the tunnel rather than the Plan’s principles, Juster sees the overhaul as an opportunity to ensure new sustainable guidelines are followed.
“We don’t want to miss an opportunity to improve things once we’ve dug it up,” he said.
According to Juster, McGill has hired consultants to look at how the space could be relandscaped, taking into account the need to facilitate pedestrian movement, bike and vehicle traffic, and parking. No proposals, however, have been received from consultants.
Currently there are no further construction plans that fall directly under McGill’s Master Plan, but upcoming projects will continue to take the Plan’s principles into account. Stanley indicated similar projects next year will focus on tunnels running under University, just north of Sherbrooke.
“That will be a major job because the area has so much traffic. We are working with the City of Montreal to plan it,” Stanley noted.
According to Juster, constructing a pedestrian tunnel between the Arts and Science buildings will not be possible.
“It would be nice to close the loop [of pedestrian tunnels], but it’s beyond our ability to fund because pedestrians can’t go through the service tunnel. A second tunnel would have to be built,” he said.
Juster asserted that several terraces, including those around the Redpath Library and the Stuart Biology building, will be replaced next year. Working groups have already been set up to study the areas and see what improvements can be made.