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Holland Tunnel Turns 80

0711hollandtunnel.jpgWhile we all know a certain amazing book celebrates its 140th release today, there's another significant anniversary.

Happy 80th birthday Holland Tunnel! The first automobile tunnel (actually two tunnels) to connect Manhattan with the rest of the continental U.S. by way of Jersey City, NJ opened on November 13, 1927. The tunnels were a major accomplishment, taking 7 years, 1 month, and 1 day to complete.

Prior to completion, millions of commuters, trucks, and horse-drawn carriages relied on 15 ferries to cross the Hudson River, navigating harbor traffic like supply barges and ocean liners, plus ice flows and heavy fog. Delays and accidents were common. (A railroad tunnel under the Hudson River, completed in 1908, helped to halve the number of ferry passengers by 1914 to just 52 million a year).

It should be noted that "Holland" was the project's first chief engineer, Clifford Holland. Holland was notably young to head such a large project and he died of a heart attack in 1924 at age 41.

On its first day in operation, 51,694 vehicles (largely curious Sunday drivers) used the Holland tunnel. The first year's total was 8,517,689 according to the New York Times on Nov. 14, 1928. In 2006, 34.7 million vehicles passed through it, averaging 95,149 each day—a fifth of New Jersey-Manhattan traffic when combined with the Lincoln Tunnel and George Washington Bridge.

The Holland is still the second longest underwater vehicular tunnel in North America after the nearby Brooklyn-Battery. The north tube extends 8,558 feet, the south tube 8,371 feet. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1993. The tunnels' great innovation, designed by its third (!) engineer Ole Singstad, are the ventilation shafts tucked above and below the roadways that clear out deadly auto exhaust through enormous towers near the entrances. Winds from the 84 exhaust fans would have reached 72 mph if air flowed directly along the tunnels' roadways.

[If you're jonesing for stats on other notable tunnels, buildings, and bridges, turn to page 730 in your brand-new World Almanac 2008. You've already got one, right?]

Holland Tunnel Time Line from Port Authority of NY & NJ

Photo from Library of Congress' Historic American Engineering Record


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