by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Huntington Citizens Tell Council & Mayor ... Keep Tunnel Open (for now)

100% of the citizens that addressed Huntington City Council and Mayor Steve Williams supported keeping the pedestrian tunnel open ... at least, for now.

It is not known how many of the speakers knew that about 30 minutes beforehand during the work session , Mayor Steve Williams told council members, "I will make the decision ... and I'm not bashful," if it's under $15,000 in cost.

Following public statements District 2 councilman Charlie McComas praised those who cleaned up the tunnel, calling it now, "a showplace down there." 

McComas continued, " I want to thank you folks for cleaning it up. It looks fantastic."

His concern --- repeatedly stressed --- how many people use the tunnel that runs under the railroad tracks at W. 5th Street as a link between Midway and Colonial Lanes on the West Side and link without crossing tracks or walking to a viaduct to Ritter Park, Huntington Middle School, or other southside locations.

" I don't know anybody uses that tunnel. I  can't find anybody that use it now," referring to having received only a text from a couple that use it on weekends.

Although unstated, no one mentioned that due to the dubious conditions surrounding First Street at that viaduct, the alternative for pedestrians avoids  well known drug activity locations on Seventh Avenue.

The West Huntington Neighborhood Institute agreed at its Thursday meeting to send a letter to the administration supporting keeping the tunnel open. Jim Rumbaugh, the husband of Institute president Donna, delivered a proposal based on currently assembled data.

"Don't  do it  (close it) now," Rumbaugh said, adding that for now, the "problem has been addressed. When good people do, bad people go."

He accepted a communication gap , suggesting, "apparently, Jim Insco (Pubic Works Director) didn't know about the mayor's plan (when he gave permission to paint the tunnel, indirectly specifying that it not be pink)." 

During the Thursday Institute meeting Capt. Hank Dial told them that it takes about six months for crime data to be collected on a location. Based on that time frame, Rumbaugh proposed waiting six months to one year to determine whether the tunnel NOW has a negative impact on the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, volunteers have stated they are monitoring tunnel conditions. On the first clean up pass through, 81 needles were picked up. Only ONE has been reported since the underground historic pedestrian icon was polished.