Holland Tunnel Construction

nothing expressed the energy and

optimism of New York in the 1920s then

the automobile it was a city on the move

11 rail tunnels already crisscross the

city and construction on the first road

tunnel connecting Manhattan and New

Jersey under the Hudson River was set to

begin while several plans were

considered 36 year old Harvard graduate

Clifford Holland's twin tube design each

carrying two lanes of one-way traffic

was chosen and he appointed chief

engineer in 1920 booth and Flynn which

had built six of the rail tunnels under

the East River one the construction

contract but this almost 30 foot

diameter tunnel was much larger than the

rail tunnels and the drives would be

some 8,500 feet long construction began

with the unsure shafts thinking of

pneumatic caissons for shields to from

each side would meet under the river

the tunnels pioneering ventilation

system made the crossing possible

designed by engineer or like Singh's dad

42 fans would blow clean air into the

tunnel through ducts at Road level while

another 42 fans would draw a dirty air

out through the ceiling on a good day

three shifts of 45 to 55 men often

working on the high pressure of up to 48

pounds per square inch

advanced 40 feet in all there were 750

6,000 decompressions of men with only

528 recorded cases of the bends as the

400-ton shields pushed forward the

workers shoveled muck blasted through

Rock and installed the cast-iron

segments lining 14 segments plus a key

play formed one ring each bolt tightened

by hand on April 3rd 1924 35 men fled

for their lives when a blowout just

behind the shield flooded 300 feet of

the southern tunnel on the Manhattan


no lives were lost that day however 14

men died during construction

none reportedly from decompression

sickness as construction progressed

Holland was ever-present and widely

respected once and hot boss said the

engineer could come into the tunnel

blindfolded and tell them if they were

going wrong but Holland would never see

the tunnel finished he suffered a

nervous breakdown and died of a heart

attack on October 28 1924 just one day

before the first set of shields hold

through under the river sings dad would

eventually become lead engineer and

complete the tunnel in all workers

excavated a half million cubic yards of


installed 70,000 tunnel segments poured

more than a hundred and twenty nine

thousand cubic yards of concrete and

installed six million ceramic tiles

named after its visionary designer the

Holland Tunnel took seven years and 40

8.4 million dollars to build it opened

to traffic one minute past midnight

November 13th 1927 on that first day

more than 50,000 vehicles drove through

the tunnel for a toll of just 50 cents