Digging the tunnel cost about $280,000 in 1977. It was created to provide underground access to state office buildings for use by state employees and legislators. The tunnel was originally designed to connect the Hall of Mirrors building (formally named the Joe R. Williams Building), the Len B Jordan Office Building, the Capitol Mall parking garage, the Pete T. Cenarrusa Building, and the statehouse. Today it also connects to the Idaho Supreme Court building and lessor known entities such as a credit union, a cafeteria, the state mail offices, and utilities.
The concrete tunnel, about 350 yards at its longest stretch, will not likely become a tourist attraction anytime soon. Although the smooth floor would thrill skateboarders, it isn’t open to the public. Access is available only to those who have key cards. Even so, there was an effort to cheer up the dreary gray walls in the 1980s. High school students were allowed to paint murals on the concrete walls. They are mildly interesting, but those walking through the tunnel might well wish for a midnight assault by spray paint from Banksy.
A mural of the word Agriculture with each letter filled with individual ag paintings was completed in February 2020 by Parma High School art teacher Linda McMillin. Unlike most of the earlier murals this one has a very professional look to it. That’s not a dig at the high school art student murals. They have a simple charm that captures a moment in time for the students who painted them.
Here are a few samples of the paintings in the tunnel.