Reader Nacim encountered a strange pedestrian tunnel in Alexandria, under the railroad tracks near the Eisenhower Avenue Metro station.

The tunnel in question. Photo by Narcim.

He writes:

I had to walk to a strip mall in Alexandria to take care of some bureaucratic errands. Google told me this was the most direct path.

I was skeptical of it so only took that route on my way back (went from King St at first) and here’s what the inside looks like.

I wasn’t trespassing or anything; you can tell that the entrances on either side make it look at least like an “official” passage. The sidewalks on either side are well maintained and don’t peter out before this tunnel, and there are well-built stairs leading to it. As you can see from the Google map links, this tunnel is the most direct route to cross the railroad tracks.

Admittedly, it was kind of cool navigating those platforms.

According to contributor Chris Slatt, the tunnel is indeed a real pedestrian passage, currently maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Slatt says the tunnel was supposed to be decommissioned when VDOT rebuilt Telegraph Road. This project included a new sidewalk over the train tracks that also provides a path for pedestrians.

But VDOT has apparently changed its mind or hasn’t gotten around to closing it yet, because the tunnel is still open. It’s not always the best or most attractive option when walking (nor is it easy to navigate if you have a disability).

It is still a good shortcut that requires fewer at-grade crossings for many people compared to Telegraph Road. Jonathon Krall, another contributor and a member of Alexandria’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, contacted VDOT to ask whether the agency has decided to keep it open or when it will go away. So far we haven’t received a response.

Canaan Merchant was born and raised in Powhatan, Virginia and attended George Mason University where he studied English. He became interested in urban design and transportation issues when listening to a presentation by Jeff Speck while attending GMU. He lives in Burke.