You were correct to be wary of that explanation. There’s never been any subterfuge associated with those subterranean tunnels. While they’ve been around long before the days of World War II, their purpose was (and continues to be) to move heat, not people around campus. Daniel Einstein, historic and cultural resources manager at the UW said, “There are many utility tunnels that crisscross campus. Wherever you see one of those flat-topped doghouse-like structures on campus you are standing over a tunnel.” This system of tunnels runs several miles, and supplies steam to heat most campus buildings. Built in 1898, two sets of steam tunnels encase the pipes that now carry steam from the main heat source on Charter Street to buildings. A second source is on Walnut Street, said Kevin Corcoran, shop supervisor for the physical plant. Corcoran added that the only way to enter the tunnels is with a special key. But somehow that hasn’t stopped “Tunnel Bob,” from being spotted in the tunnels from time to time, and lurking around the underbelly of campus for years. They’re not exactly a place one should go exploring, however. “In general the tunnels are quite cramped and warm. They are not intended to accommodate people/movement of supplies,” says Einstein.
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