HERNANDO, MS (abc24.com) - It was built to move cows, then used by school buses then shut down. A one lane tunnel in Hernando, Mississippi runs directly under Interstate 55 connecting one side of town to the other, and residents to three schools.
For the past few years residents have been driving their cars through the tunnel illegally, making what would be a pedestrian shortcut dangerous and off limits to walkers. That is, until now.
"It is dangerous on that end," says resident Queencece Maxwell. Maxwell and her kids live on one side of Hernando's tunnel. They go to school just a few feet on the other, but they haven't been able to safely walk through it.
"You've got to go all the way to the main street to go around," she says.
"That made good sense because they might be hit by a car. It wasn't safe," says Mayor Chip Johnson. He just signed papers to take control of the tunnel from the state.
The city's turning it into a bike and pedestrian path, putting up barriers to block traffic.
"Those aren't pretty. They're just what we had. We're going to order some really nice bollards and do a little landscaping to make that tunnel a safe attractive way to get under the interstate," he says.
They'll also clean up the graffiti and trash. Residents like Maxwell have another suggestion: lighting. They say at night it's too dark to feel comfortable walking through it.
"I went through there one night it was dark," she says. "I'm talking about gun shot dark."
Johnson says lighting is part of the plan, but that costs money the city doesn't have. In the meantime he's urging people to start walking during the day.
“That's what we're encouraging. We want children out and active. Walking to and from school is one way they can be active.”