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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Construction underway on Shands underground tunnel

Construction on an underground tunnel linking Shands at UF with its new cancer hospital began Monday.

The tunnel, scheduled for completion in late November, will give hospital staff, patients and visitors a 440-foot path they can walk through instead of having to cross Southwest Archer Road.

The underground entrance will be separated into two 13-foot-wide paths, giving patients and staff a different route than visitors, said Kimberly Jamerson, a Shands spokeswoman.

With dual hallways, visitors will not have to move out of the way for oncoming "gurneys and the like" traveling with hospital staff and patients, Jamerson said.

The tunnel's construction costs are part of the cancer hospital's $388 million construction budget.

Brad Pollitt, vice president of facilities at Shands, estimated that the tunnel project accounts for $14 million of that total, which includes the costs of construction, interior finishes and concrete.

Shands is already connected to the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center, located on the other side of Archer Road, via a different underground tunnel.

But that corridor's vanilla-colored walls and tile floors will pale in comparison to the new tunnel's interiors, Pollitt said.

He said the walls in the visitor hallway will be mostly white, but will include artwork for splashes of color and and furniture for visitors to rest on along the walk.

The tunnel's lively interior was designed to look like an extension of the hospitals, he said.

"We're doing the same thing we would normally do with any corner (of the hospital)," he said.

The hallway for doctors and patients will resemble a traditional hallway that allows for traffic on wheels.

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The cancer hospital will also be the new home of Shands' emergency and trauma-related services when it opens in September 2009.

Jamerson said some of the patients using the passageway could be trauma patients being transferred to Shands.

Access to Newell Drive from Southwest Archer Road will not be affected by the construction, but drivers will only have access to the hospital through the Southwest Archer Road and Southwest 16th Street intersection entrance.

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