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Mr. Lincoln’s Tunnel

Jeffrey Syken

Like a giant moat, the mighty Hudson River separated the teeming island of Manhattan from the rest of the nation. Plans to conquer the Hudson extended as far back as the early 19th Century, but things got serious in the wake of the completion of the Brooklyn Bridge (in 1883). Though a mighty suspension bridge nearly got built in the 1890s, it would be a series of tunnels – starting in the first decade of the 20th Century - that would first connect the great metropolis of New York City to New Jersey.

The ferry terminals on the western shore of the Hudson were the termini of great railroads until these rail tunnels were built, first serving lower Manhattan (via Hoboken and Jersey City) and then the great Penn Station (1910). Electric traction had made these tunnels viable but still, by the 1920s, there was lacking a means for the growing number of cars and trucks to easily, quickly and safely “get to the other side.” In 1927, that problem was solved with the opening of the world’s first ventilated vehicular tunnel – the Holland Tunnel.

By 1931, the George Washington Bridge was providing trans-Hudson communication for vehicular traffic as well, but there remained a ten-mile gap between the Holland Tunnel and the GWB. What was needed was a “Midtown-Hudson Tunnel” to help alleviate the traffic burden and serve midtown Manhattan directly. So it was that the Port Authority of New York would conceive, construct and operate a single, bi-directional tube, opening to traffic in 1937. It would connect to Weehawken, NJ (the eastern-end of the “Lincoln Highway”) thus it would be named, appropriately, “Lincoln Tunnel.” A second and third tube would be added in the post-WWII years, increasing capacity and making the tunnel a critical link in the transportation nexus of the two states it serves.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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