An Abandoned Tunnel Under I-94 Once Led To A One Room School House Near Albion
Before I-94 was carved across the farmlands of southern Michigan, it was U.S. Highway 12 that pointed travelers from Aberdeen, Washington to Detroit, Michigan.
Old U.S 12 was a scenic drive through Michigan, wandering across the wooded farmlands and various small towns before it terminated in the Motor City. But the creation of Interstate 94 changed all of that.
In the mid-1950s state and federal officials planned the Interstate to replace the original route of U.S. Highway 12, from Detroit to New Buffalo. It became the first complete border-to-border toll-free freeway, in a state, in the United States.
It was in 1958 when my father took me to the top of “Shrams Hill”, on 35th Street just south of Galesburg. From the top of that viewpoint, you could see for miles down the Kalamazoo Valley towards Kalamazoo. He took me to see the huge road graders that were cutting the path of the future freeway.
There was one problem that occurred during the construction. Countless farmlands and local roadways were split in half. The roadways would just become “dead ends”, but the farmlands lost their access to the pastures for livestock to graze in. The solution was to build tunnels that passed beneath the freeway.
There were two such tunnels that I used to visit as a kid with my buddies, as we hiked the area, looking for hideouts or perhaps a place to build a “fort”. One was near the Galesburg Speedway, and the other was just west of the current rest area, at Exit 85 and 35th Street.
There is one curious tunnel, near Albion, Michigan, that still remains, but is barred from entry. It is located near mile marker 121 near the "B" Drive exit, and once allowed students to attend classes at the White School, located at the corner of “C” Drive North & 28 1/2 Mile Road. School buses were not plentiful, and without the tunnel, students would have to walk miles to reach the school.
According to Albion resident Steve Mills, who posted a photo of the tunnel on Facebook,
I personally used this tunnel as a kid in the early 1980s to visit my friend's house on the other side. I'm not sure when the tunnel was finally fenced off but it has easily been 20 years.
Many of these tunnels probably still exist along the path of I-94, and others have been brought to an end as victims of new road construction. The remaining artifacts will only be discovered by roving youngsters whose goal for the day is to discover a new place to investigate or build a fort.
The Former White School Google Maps