Underneath the railroad tracks that run parallel to California Street, a passage used by many students to get to Cal Poly is teeming with trash-saturated, murky water and a unique stench. However, the Cal Poly Democrats and Alpha Gamma Rho are teaming up for a solution.
Although there are no known reports of sexual assault in the passageway, it is often refereed to among students as “the rape tunnel.”
But the tunnel is not a tunnel at all, according to Aaron Anderson from the City of San Luis Obispo’s Street Maintenance Program.
“It’s a creek,” Anderson said. “It was never engineered for people to cross.”
However, students have made haphazard paths to cross anyway.
“I definitely don’t like to go through the tunnel because it’s scary at night and never clean, but it’s the quickest way,” animal science sophomore Marie-Claire Lamoureux said.
Currently, the only way to cross the murky water is by student-built structures that are constantly on the verge of collapse.
“It disgusting, that’s the best way to characterize it,” political science junior Ian Levy said.
And Levy, the treasurer of the Cal Poly Democrats, said he and other students are working to change that.
On Nov. 4, the Cal Poly Democrats club teamed up with AGR to begin planning a semi-permanent, non-invasive bridge to make the tunnel more accessible for students.
Levy said his vision for the bridge “isn’t luxurious – it’s just better.” He said he pictures a clean, flat surface without cinder blocks, cracked wood or planks that students have to hop across – something that can last for a year or two. He said AGR members suggested lining the tunnel with reflective tape to provide lighting as well.
“We just figured it could be better, and why not make everyone’s life easier?” Levy said.
Levy said he wants to build a bridge without overstepping boundaries with the city, because as Anderson said, it was not built with the intention to cross.
“We know that the city’s not going to fix this problem,” Levy said. “When you bring it up to the city there’s going to be bureaucracy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means that it’s going to take time.”
If the city asks him to remove the bridge, Levy said he would, with the condition that the city puts something to replace it.
Security only watches over the grounds Thursdays through Sundays, according to Brian Oliva-Hagerty, owner and operator of Spector Security which watches over the Stenner Creek Apartments. Anderson said people who are homeless sometimes camp under the tracks and recommended students not use the passageway at night.
“Always travel in packs,” Oliva-Hagerty said. “And if students must venture through the tunnel alone, they can call someone on the phone until they’re in the clear.”
Levy said he hopes to complete the project in the next two to four weeks. Funding for the bridge will come directly from the Cal Poly Democrats club, a budget that Levy oversees.
“We figured ‘Hey, we have the money to fund this project,’” Levy said. “I’d rather see us spending money that makes a difference than just holding it for no reason.”