LANDMARKS - The Pedestrian "Tunnels"
Where other cities have restricted automobile traffic in some central business districts in order to give pedestrians easy access to facilities, Houston uses a system of privately constructed underground access ways for pedestrians' comfort. Dubbed by Houstonians "the Tunnels," the brightly lighted subterranean walkway system connect clusters of buildings in the downtown area as well as in other parts of town.
Downtown's pedestrian tunnels is a system of tunnels about 20 feet below Houston's downtown streets and more than 6 miles long. Having started out years ago as a tunnel between two downtown movie theaters, today it contains shops and restaurants and providing easy access to others and connects 95 city blocks. The main "tunnel" system totals approximately 2.8 miles in length and connects about 50 buildings and parking facilities. The largest continuous section interconnects 15 major office buildings, retail establishments, hotels and parking facilities in the heart of downtown Houston.
Starting from Jones Hall to the Nina Vance Alley Theater, the Tunnel makes it possible for a pedestrian to walk to City Hall, City Hall Annex, and the Tranquility underground garage without being exposed to the weather (in the past it also linked the Music Hall, Sam Houston Coliseum, Albert Thomas Convention Center). Six blocks of the St. Joseph Medical Center is connected via sky-walks at the southeast corner of downtown near the Pierce elevated.
The Harris County tunnel at the far north side of downtown is not connected to the rest of the system by either tunnels or sky-walks. This portion connects Harris County courts, jails, and associated buildings totaling ten blocks. Two separate tunnel systems serve the county buildings in the city. The first one links the Criminal Courts Building with the Family Law Center. The other connects the County Administration building with other county facilities.
In the past, City Hall and the Oscar Holcombe Civic Center buildings were linked together in a separate tunnel system. Only Wells Fargo Plaza offers direct access from the street to the tunnel; otherwise, entry points are from street-level stairs, escalators, and elevators located inside buildings that are connected to the tunnel.