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Holland Tunnel, Manhattan

South Tunnel of the Holland Tunnel
December 6, 1923
New York Public Library

The first automobile tunnel built under the Hudson River was the Holland Tunnel, opened to vehicular traffic on November 13, 1927.  The Holland Tunnel was formerly named the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel or the Canal Street Tunnel.  Today it is named for it's chief engineer Clifford Milburn Holland (1883-1924).

Beginning in 1906, a joint commission of New York and New Jersey explored the possibility of construction of a roadway crossing to connect the states.  After design proposals from various engineers including George Goethals, and the firm of Jacobs and Davies, the design of two separate tubes by Clifford Holland was chosen.  In 1919, Holland was named Chief Engineer of the project.

North Tunnel of the Holland Tunnel
July 20, 1925
New York Public Library
On February 1, 1920 funds were appropriated for construction by the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission.  Construction of the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel Project began on March 31, 1922 at the corner of Canal Street and West Street in Manhattan.

The tunnel features a twin-tube design that became a pioneer in tunnel construction.  Each of the two tunnel tubes then feature two lanes.  The tunnel was designed by Clifford Holland who eventually became Chief Engineer of the tunnel.  A revolutionary two-duct system was developed to draw fresh air in and suck exhaust out.  Air is moved by 42 blowing fans and 42 exhaust fans arranged in four ventilation buildings.  Only 56 fans of the 84 in total operate at one time, leaving 28 available for emergencies.  Within approximately 90 seconds the air in the tunnel can be completely changed.

On October 27, 1924 Holland died of a heart attack attributed to the stress he endured in overseeing the tunnel's construction.  The project was renamed in Holland's memory on November 12, 1924.

State Line of the North Tunnel of the Holland Tunnel
May 1, 1926
New York Public Library

The Tunnel opened to traffic on November 13, 1927 at a cost of approximately $54 million.  President Calvin Coolidge formally opened the tunnel using the same key used during the opening of the Panama Canal in 1915.

First Holland Tunnel Toll Collected (1927)
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
52,000 vehicles passed through the tunnel on the first day of operation.

The Port of New York Authority (later the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey) took over jurisdiction in 1931 using the surpluses of the tunnel to finance construction of the Lincoln Tunnel.

Aerial of  New York City's Holland Tunnel Entrance (1929)
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

On May 13, 1949 a fire occurred aboard a chemical truck, with 80 55-gallon drums of carbon disulfide, which had entered the south tunnel at the New Jersey side.  At the time, it was forbidden to carry carbon disulfide through the tunnel.  After traveling approximately 0.54 miles, a drum broke free of its restraints, hit the roadway, cracked open and ignited.  The tunnel experienced extensive damage and required the replacement of power cabling, lighting, and 600 feet of wall and ceiling tiles on the New Jersey side.

Aerial of  New York City's Holland Tunnel Entrance (1929)
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
The tunnel was designated a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark in 1982.

In 1993 the tunnel was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Holland Tunnel (1935)
Museum of the City of New York

New Jersey Entrance of the Holland Tunnel
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey


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