35 New Jersey Firsts – #31 – First Tunnel Under a River

by Alice Magdziak • August 23, 2014 • Edge of New Jersey, Hudson, Third StateComments (0)1643

The Holland Tunnel was the first mechanically ventilated tunnel built underwater in the whole world!

New Jersey officially recognizes 1664 as the year the state was founded when land owned by the Duke of York was given to Sir George Carteret and John Lord Berkeley. That transaction record proclaimed that “said Tract of Land is hereafter to be called by the name or names of New Cesarea or New Jersey.” That makes this year New Jersey’s 350th Anniversary! To celebrate this major milestone, we’ve undertaken a project we’re calling 35 New Jersey Firsts where we highlight 35 things that first came to life in New Jersey.

In 1920 the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission started construction on what was originally called the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel. It opened in 1927 and the Port Authority of NY & NJ took over operations in April 1930.

The Holland Tunnel was considered an outstanding engineering achievement when it was built. As a tribute, it was named after the first chief engineer, Clifford M. Holland, who with his team surmounted many previously unsolved tunnel engineering problems. Unfortunately, Holland died before the tunnel’s completion, and his successor, Milton Freeman, died five months later. The tunnel was finished under its third chief engineer, Ole Singstad.

One of the biggest engineering problems with building an underwater tunnel was how to ventilate the 1.6-mile tunnel so the car exhaust wouldn’t build up inside. The team’s solution was to design a circular tunnel with an automatic ventilation system. Four ventilation buildings, two on each side of the Hudson River, house 84 giant fans that entirely change the tunnel’s air every 90 seconds.

In 1984, because of its valuable contribution to tunnel design and construction, the Holland Tunnel was designated a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil and Mechanical Engineers. And in 1993, it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

[via panynj.gov]

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