Saturday, December 22, 2007

December 22, 1937:

The Lincoln Tunnel Opens

A lot of things are named after the 16th President of the United States, such as the capital of Nebraska, 16 counties, mountains in New Hampshire, Colorado and four other states, and many towns, streets, schools, federal facilities and miscellaneous places and things -- including Lincoln automobiles, Lincoln Logs, the Lincoln Brigade, and the Lincoln Tunnel, which began as a Depression-era public works project, and opened 70 years ago today.

According to nycroads,com: "Just after the Port of New York Authority (later the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) acquired jurisdiction of the Holland Tunnel, the states of New York and New Jersey authorized the Authority to construct the "Midtown Hudson Tunnel" - later known as the Lincoln Tunnel - between Weehawken, New Jersey and midtown Manhattan.

Plans for the tunnel were first announced in 1930, when the Port Authority proposed a $62 million, twin-tube tunnel under the Hudson River between West 38th Street and Weehawken, New Jersey... Robert Moses, who was appointed chairman of the New York State Emergency Public Works Commission in 1933 under Governor Lehman, obtained funds for the Port Authority to construct the tunnel after negotiations with the federally run Reconstruction Finance Corporation in Washington. Ole Singstad, who oversaw construction of the Holland Tunnel, consulted on the project under Port Authority chief engineer Othmar Ammann.

"The work of the sandhogs was dangerous, claustrophobic and tedious. Just entering and exiting the tunnel took a long time. Crews entered air locks, one at a time, after which the doors at each end were sealed. An air pipe started hissing, and the men's ears would pop as the air pressure climbed until it equaled that of the adjoining lock. The workers were then able to safely open the connecting door and crowd into the next section, where the entire ordeal would be repeated. Once at the forward end of the tunnel, the men had to work swiftly because they could handle the pressure only briefly. Compression and decompression had to be reached in safe, short increments.

"While one work crew progressed from the Manhattan side, another progressed from the Weehawken side. The first 'hole through' occurred on August 3, 1935, when a hydraulic engineer from the New Jersey crew was pushed by his feet through an opening to meet the New York crew. The first tube (today the center tube) of the Lincoln Tunnel was opened on December 22, 1937, at a cost of $75 million."

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