Today in History: Opening Day of the First US Underground Vehicle Tunnel

Today in History: Opening Day of the First US Underground Vehicle Tunnel

M.C. Millman

The Holland Tunnel, an outstanding engineering achievement, opened on November 13, 1927, to connect Manhattan and New Jersey, providing the first and much-needed vehicular crossing over the Hudson River.

The tunnel connects Canal Street in Manhattan with 12th and 14th Streets in Jersey City.

Construction of the tunnel began in 1920 under the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission. In April 1930, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over tunnel operations. 

The project was initially called the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel. The name was changed to honor the project's chief engineer, Clifford M. Holland. The project began under the guidance of Holland, who, along with his team, solved many tunnel engineering problems. Holland passed away before the tunnel was completed in 1924 at the age of 41. A successor, Milton Freeman, was appointed but died five months into the job. The tunnel was successfully completed under the third chief engineer, Ole Singstad, who also designed the tunnel's integral ventilation system. Singstad created the tunnel with 84 huge fans, which replaced the air in the tunnel every 90 seconds, keeping the air quality within a safe limit.

At its opening in 1927, the Holland Tunnel was the longest continuous underwater tunnel for vehicular traffic worldwide. According to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the methods used to design and build it still form the basis for constructing many underwater vehicular tunnels worldwide.

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