Water main break leads repair crews to underground tunnel that has been closed for decades

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - When crews went to repair a water main break near the intersection of 27th and Cleveland, it led them to part of the city's past.

The pipe went underneath an underground tunnel.

The tunnel was built so children would not have to cross what was once a very busy 27th Street to get to the Greenwood School.

"I've never seen a pedestrian tunnel like this in Kansas City ever," said Stephen Collins, the principal Engineering Technician for the Water Department.

The 16-inch water main break, something that would normally take a few days to repair, is now taking weeks to repair because they have to reroute the water main through the tunnel.

Repair crews estimate the tunnel was built in the 1940s.

"This was really well done. You can see by the bevel strips and there is little deterioration," Collins said.

Locals said it closed sometime in the 1980s. The Greenwood School, an elementary school, closed in the 90's.

Byron Smith works at a busy barber shop at the corner of 27th and Cleveland.

"I get a lot of customers saying they used to go to school across the street and used the tunnel," Smith said.  "First we thought it was a basement to our building. As we went down there, it’s a tunnel! It’s the first time in history, well my history, that I have seen this," Smith said.

He said the tunnel is a link to Kansas City's past.

Water crews hope to be finished fixing the water main break sometime in the next couple of weeks.

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