DETROIT – Was there really a tunnel under Jefferson Avenue in Detroit to the Belle Isle bridge?
We received this question from Deborah as a part of our 4YI form, where you can submit any question about Detroit or Michigan -- and we’ll try our best to find the answers for you.
Deborah wrote: “I lived in Detroit in the 60’s, not far from the Roostertail, between Jefferson and the water front. I was very young when my girls father would drive us in his convertible car, blowing the car horn as we drove through the tunnel under Jefferson over to the bridge to go to the beach on Bell Island.”
She said over the years, memory of the tunnel faded and many of her friends and family didn’t recall it at all. Until 2019, when she met some ex-Detroiters at a party, and they remembered it.
So, I did some digging. First of all, it definitely existed. It wasn’t a tunnel like the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, but a tunnel by definition, nonetheless.
According to the Belle Isle Conservancy, during the 1923 construction of the bridge, a tunnel or underpass going beneath Jefferson Avenue was built providing direct access to the bridge via East Grand Boulevard.
In 1985, during the reconstruction of the Bridge, the city decided to remove the underpass and rework the bridge entrance. So there’s no evidence that it ever existed.
I was able to find some old footage on YouTube of the trek through the short tunnel and onto the bridge: