Historic Danville tunnel could soon be lit up with multicolored lights

Project inspired by tunnel in Birmingham, Alabama

DANVILLE, Va. – Driving through the tunnel near the science center on Craghead Street in Danville is something many people do every day and probably think nothing of.

But Traci Petty and Evelyn Riley have been thinking about it since they took a trip to Birmingham, Alabama with a local nonprofit in 2017.

"Once we walked inside, we looked at each other and said, 'We would love to do this with the Craghead tunnel,'" Petty said.

On Monday, Riley shared video with 10 News she took of the tunnel in Birmingham.

She said internal lighting features like the tunnel in Birmingham have proven to be very beneficial for cities.

"I think that us just duplicating this is a tried and true method for cities to have an increase in tourism. It affects the economic development as well as the community pride," Riley said.

The Craghead Street tunnel is not just any tunnel.

Prior to the end of segregation, it served as the nearby train depot's waiting area for African-Americans.

Pat Daniel is the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Danville and one of those people who stood underneath.

"Being down there in the early '60s and waiting for family members to come from New York is a part of my history," Daniel said.

The lights could make the tunnel a destination.

Daniel envisions this idea being just the beginning of a larger effort to shine a light on African American history in Danville, especially for younger generations.

"There are other aspects throughout the city that they could be taught as well, about the Almegro community, that's not brought up as much," Daniel said.

Riley, Petty and Daniel said the lights would be controlled with a computer so they could be changed periodically.

There's no limit to how the lights could be used.

"It could be any color. It could be seasonal. It could be for holidays," Daniel said.

"Different events. Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a local school spirit week," Riley said.

As of Monday, the exact cost of the project was not known but Riley and Petty were trying to raise money.

On Thursday, they'll meet with the city's River District Design Commission, where they hope to be granted a certificate of appropriateness for the project so it can move forward.

The goal is to have the lights up by the end of summer.

If you would like to donate to the project, email Riley and Petty at depotglow@gmail.com.

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