Urban Compass Calgary
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Calgary's creepiest pedestrian underpass needs to go
Part walkway, part subterranean toilet – the tunnel under Macleod Trail at Chinook isn't suitable
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Do you want to pass through Calgary’s most terrifying piece of public infrastructure, its real-life hall of horrors?
You do not. Trust me. I sort of wish I hadn’t, but I was curious. Of late, Calgary is a city of elegant bridges and flawless skyscrapers and other pretty things on the surface.
All very nice, but people being people, I also find myself drawn to some of the darker, more hidden places in our cityscape.
Somewhere in my memory was a recollection of a long, poorly-lit pedestrian tunnel that passes beneath Macleod Trail by Chinook Centre. I’d been down there once or twice before, more than a decade ago, in my college days.
Surely that spooky passageway would not be there anymore. Not in 2016, when “walkable” is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. Not when city hall aspires to redo Macleod Trail into more of a people-friendly boulevard.
There was only one way to find out. (Okay, I suppose I could have put the question on Twitter or called the city to ask, but where’s the fun in that?!)
Last Monday night, after coming out of Chinook Centre—another pretty place of surface glitz and polish—I went looking for that seedy old tunnel. The autumn cold bit at my ears as I headed toward the Kal-Tire in the mall parking lot. It was just after 9 p.m.
Sure enough, there was a sign: PEDESTRIAN UNDERPASS TO CROSS MACLEOD TR. A narrow concrete ramp descended to a dark corner.
I was both baffled and riveted. How is this place still here? Do people actually use it? Why would anyone do so, when there’s an open-air pedestrian overpass a block north?
Continuing was surely unwise but I couldn’t turn back. Down I went, into the darkness. And then, turning the corner, the smell hit me all at once and my head snapped back in repulsion.
This was no pedestrian walkway. It’s a subterranean toilet, a place that makes gas-station bathrooms seem like elegant palaces by comparison.
I held my breath and hustled through, stopping only to snap a quick photo. I didn’t go slowly enough to examine the refuse—or the various liquids—that had been dumped on the floor.
Fortunately I did not encounter another person. Coming up the ramp on the other side, I did pass a man, cloaked deep in the hood of a sweatshirt, who seemed eager to get down there. We did not converse.
Gulping in the clean surface air, I went back to my car via the overpass.
There are places in our city that are dumpy yet appealing, that contain a certain charm. There are other places that just need a little sprucing up.
This terrifying tunnel is neither of those things. It’s a bad place. Block it off. Fill it with dirt.
Never go down there.