December 22, 1937: The Lincoln Tunnel opens. Originally called the Midtown Vehicular Tunnel, the planners opted to give the structure a bit more cachet. In keeping with the George Washington Bridge, they named the tunnel after Abraham Lincoln. The 1.5 mile long tunnel connects Weehawken, New Jersey with Manhattan, New York City via a pathway under the Hudson River. It was designed by Ole Singstad and was funded by the New Deal’s Public Works Administration. The first or central tube was the first to be built and construction began in March 1934. It opened on this day and charged users fifty cents per passenger car. The construction cost of this first tube was $85,000,000 (about $4.15 billion today).
Originally designed as two tubes, construction on the second tube was halted in 1938 and resumed in 1941. But because of a shortage of materials due to World War II, it was not completed until 1945. The construction cost of the second tunnel was $80,000,000 (about $2.2 billion today). On February 1, 1945, Michael Catan (known as Mr. First after attending over 525 opening day events) was chosen to lead the way through the newly opened tube. Eventually it was noted that a third tube would be helpful and after much negotiation, it was built and opened on May 25, 1957. It was south of the original two tubes. They are all side by side on the New Jersey side, but this third tube is a block away on the New York side.
The toll for cars using the (eastbound) tunnel today is $12 if using cash and with E-ZPass it is $9.50 during peak hours and $7.50 for off-peak hours. There are about 110,800 daily users of the tunnels that are 21.5 feet wide (each tunnel has two lanes) with a vertical clearance of 13.5 feet. They are maintained by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. This year will mark the 75th anniversary of the tunnel opening. The Holland Tunnel in nearby New Jersey is ten years older. Both tunnels are prime terrorist targets and therefore require some extra monitoring.
The center tube has one traffic lane called XBL for exclusive bus lane during rush hours. During the morning rush hour, the central tunnel is only in the direction toward Manhattan. During the evening rush hour, the central tunnel is only New Jersey bound. Outside of rush hours, traffic flows in both directions in the central tunnel. Tolls are collected on the New Jersey side without collections on the return trip. Each morning rush hour sees about 1,700 buses and 62,000 commuters using this monumentally busy artery.
Traffic signals in New York are just rough guidelines. – David Letterman
Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic. – Dan Rather
Traffic is only one of the side effects of growth. – Roy Barnes
I’m the worst person to be stuck with in a traffic jam. – Larry King
Also on this day:
March to the Sea – In 1864, General Sherman finished his march into Savannah, Georgia.
First PM – In 1885, Ito Hirobumi became the first Prime Minister of Japan.
Fly Ash – In 2008, the TVA’s Kingston Fossil Plant’s dike collapsed.