The Holland Tunnel
On October 12, 1920 - Construction of the Holland Tunnel got underway. The tunnel would provide a direct link between Twelfth Street in Jersey City, NJ and Canal Street in New York City. The tunnel has two tubes more than 8,000 feet (2,400 meters) long. It opened to traffic on November 13, 1927. Oh, and one more thing: The Holland Tunnel was named for Clifford Milburn Holland (1883-1924), the civil engineer who died while directing the tunnel’s construction.
Tunnels under the Hudson River were not new: the first trans-Hudson rail tunnel opened in 1910. However, the much larger diameter of vehicular tunnels, combined with the affect of vehicle exhaust on occupants, especially for those stuck in traffic inside the tunnel, presented new problems. To address these problems, Holland gathered a team of experts from the U.S. Bureau of Mines, Yale University and the University of Illinois. Ole Singstad, who later went on to design the Lincoln, Queens-Midtown and Brooklyn-Battery tunnels, led the design team.
Holland and the design team developed a revolutionary two-duct system - a system that utilized one duct to draw in fresh air, and the other to suck out exhaust air - that was adopted eventually by vehicular tunnels worldwide. To facilitate the exchange of clean and dirty air, the team developed a system of ventilator fans and airshafts to circulate clear air throughout the length of the tunnel. This air is moved by 42 blowing fans and 42 exhaust fans - totaling 6,000 horsepower - arranged in four ventilation buildings. (Only 56 out of the total 84 fans are in operation at all times; the other 28 fans are reserved for emergencies.) It takes approximately 90 minutes to completely change the air in the tunnel.
Construction of the tunnel began in 1920 and progressed over seven long, arduous years. However, Holland would not see his dream come to fruition: he died one day before construction crews from the New York and New Jersey sides met. Singstad, who led the design team prior to construction, took over as chief engineer.