Originally called the Midtown Hudson Tunnel, the Lincoln Tunnel is actually the world’s first three-tube underwater vehicular tunnel system. The three so-called “tubes” are known as the North, Center, and South Tunnels, each 21.5 feet wide and designed with two traffic lanes apiece. The tunnels cross the Hudson River connecting NJ-495, NJ-3, and the New Jersey Turnpike (I-95) in Weehawken, N.J. to Midtown Manhattan at 39th Street in New York City.

Tunnel Design

Cost To Build The Lincoln Tunnel

Designed by Ole Singstad, a Norwegian-American who pioneered underwater vehicular tunnels, he had previously designed the novel ventilation system for the Holland Tunnel and is renowned for designing all the underwater road tunnels in New York City. With funding provided by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program, construction of the first tube, referred to as the Center Tunnel, began in 1935 under the auspices of the New York Port Authority. The tunnel was designed to carry traffic over two lanes, one traveling west to New Jersey, the other returning to New York.

Life Of A “Sandhog”

Working conditions inside the tunnel were quite claustrophobic and extremely hazardous. In fact, each man had to undergo a tedious pressurization/depressurization process before entering and leaving the work area which has a maximum depth of some 100 feet below the river’s surface. And because of the higher pressure within these tubes, the workers, or “sandhogs” as they were called, were limited to only a half-hour of work in the morning and a half-hour in the afternoon. Despite the many obstacles, work on the 8,216 foot long tunnel was completed in 1937 with all the pomp and ceremony such a project deserved.

Total cost to excavate the center of the Lincoln Tunnel was $75 million

North Tunnel Construction

In time, however, vehicular traffic had increased quite significantly and was approaching a point where the single two-lane tunnel would become less effective. To alleviate the growing congestion, construction on the second tunnel began north of the original tube in 1938. Delayed by material shortages of World War Two, the 7,482 foot long North Tunnel was finally opened in 1945.

Total cost to construct the North Tunnel was $80 million

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