Left Unknown: Washburn Tunnel by Victoria M Hernandez

Superintendent: Bob Bennett
Phone: (713) 455-0062
3100 Federal Road, Houston, Texas 77015

November 2010–There wasn’t a day that passed that didn’t feel like any other. On a daily miniature road trip my mother and I took the same route every afternoon for a bonding session. Moving right along, passing up people who were fond of causing delays. We slowly approached a trademark in which many people fail to notice. The Washburn tunnel, which is located at 3100 Federal Rd. in Houston , Texas . Coming to a slight stop just a 100 ft away from the entrance, my mom begins to count. “One….Two….Three….Go!” For years now this traditions has overcome my mother and I .It has become a memory in which will be stored in our hearts forever. The idea of the game was to hold your breath once entering the beginning of the tunnel. We pretended the person who couldn’t last throughout the whole journey drowned , the tunnel is located in the ship channel which makes it surrounded by water. Making a fool out of myself trying to catch my mother’s attention was something common and was not the same without. Many times I noticed that she would let me win. I was about nine years old it’s not like I didn’t know the difference. As I grew older the same game was played over and over again.

As I look deeper into the tunnel it seems as if the color in the structure faded into a yellowish brown color. Everything which was in clear view had an essence of being man made. You could feel that every brick that was put into place was brought together by someone who put effort into their everyday job . Come to realize that their was more about the tunnel which wasn’t just visual.

The reason behind making the tunnel was to be able to make a closer route from Houston to Pasadena . The name originated from a Harris County Auditor Harry L. Washburn. In the mid 1950’s the public was exposed to something in which would be a new insight to architecture. Which was also named the South’s largest and toll free vehicular tunnel. The estimated price of having this Tunnel built caused the city to pay an enormous amount of seven million dollars. Hard labor was put into the making a count of two major corporations came together to put this structure to use. The process of the tunnel was divided into six major operations. First the engineers h ad to dig a 90 x 40 feet trench had to be dug. At 85 feet under water a numerous amount of cement structures had to be locked into position. After completing this task the beginning of the tiling the inside had begun. Ventilation is supplied by Westinghouse Sturtevant blower fans which give a complete air exchange every two minutes .The ventilation system is located at the top of the tunnel. The purpose of the fans is to keep the air level clear from carbon monoxide. Due to the massive size of the tunnel every feature had to be taken seriously and well constructed to prevent any malfunction from occurring. Another extraordinary feature that was added to the tunnel involved the lighting. Fear of having an electrical outage was one of the main concerns at that time. Therefore every 12th light that you pass a generator is located to reassure people that the lighting will always be available. It is known that the light intensity in the portals is three times brighter than the interior. Flooding has never occurred in this tunnel for the fact that in is nearly impossible. Pumps are located under the road to drain the water back into the ship channel. Yet once the completion of the tunnel had been wrapped up they felt as if they needed more to give to the community. With a result of wanting to give they have made it known that if a vehicle where to run out of gas while passing through the tunnel the city would be more than happy to give the driver two gallons of gasoline.

For once I wanted to win fair and square. Time after time I tried to figure out a technique in which would help me control my breathing for a much longer time. Failing over and over again, caused me to want achievement even greater. After a few years or so I finally realized that reclining my seat would cause my oxygen to stay at a flowing position and I was able to hold it in much longer. Every time that I held my breathe I felt like a fish without water. Everything that I viewed seemed to change colors and become very bright. As I lay there in the passenger seat holding my breath for a last time I could hear myself thinking. Every thought that crossed my mind was at the volume of speaking to the world .Every moment that passed felt like an eternity. The thing I had wanted so much in my life was on its way. As difficult as it was getting I knew the harder I tried the more that I would be able to accomplish. I gazed up trying to see how much further the exit was and only to my disappointment we had more than half of the journey to go. Realizing that I needed to stay focused on my mission I closed my eyes and began to sing a soft song to myself. Sooner than later I had overcome another obstacle in my life. Finally I had won! Failure was something that I had become very acquainted to. Finally the day that I won I felt as if I was complete. A greater part of myself had caused me to have pride within my own accomplishments. There had never been a greater feeling than this one. I recall my mother just looking into my eyes and smiling. I felt as if she knew its was I yearned for. Her smile was all that I needed in order for me to know that she was proud.

I’ve come to realize that I would want to experience theses moments with my children one day. I’ve had several conversations with my mother on how she felt sharing these times with me and her only response was a smile. She stared right at me and smiled over and over again. I would always wonder why she never said anything but yet the look in her eyes was all that I needed. I knew that as much as it meant to me it meant even more to her. Now that I have become much older and take the same route on fewer occasions I miss having those limited outings but not once do I fail to reminisce on the past. I feel as if it helped me realize how important the small things were in my life. Yet the day I won it gave me a greater understanding of the tunnel. I never noticed how many titles were placed along the walls. The lighting in which gave it a mellow atmosphere.

Even though as human beings we tend to always look at the outer coating and never take time to realize the significance of many things we’d be lost if the tunnel weren’t there. Many things would fail if someone wouldn’t have come up with such a great idea. The route to pass through the water would have been much longer. Yet I couldn’t imagine my life without having such minor details implicated upon it. I do believe that these special moments have not only been shared between my mother and I but yet many other whose stories, have not been reached. Traditions have never played an important role in my family. Everything in which has occurred was just another daily routine. We wouldn’t consider much of anything to be a great importance. But for at least once in my life I can say that this has impacted me in many different ways. I believe that many special moments such as these should be shared in every family. They are building stones to a happy and healthy life. Every day I dream of having cherishing moments with my future family. Its importance should always been taken into consideration for if it weren’t for the tunnel my daily bonding session wouldn’t have been able to occur.



Washburn Tunnel Pct. 2

Washburn Facilty

Houston Travel Guide

Washburn Tunnel Treatment Facility

Tunnel Facility Manager


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