Time Features The Holland Tunnel On Its Cover – 11/21/1927

US History |

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Time magazine makes the decision to feature the week-old Holland Tunnel on November 21st, 1927 on the cover. The tunnel runs beneath the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York City and was opened up the week before to traffic at midnight on November 13th. 

President Calvin Coolidge had ceremonially opened the tunnel from his yacht on the Potomac by using the original key that had “opened” the Panama Canal in 1915. Time named it “the golden lever of the Presidential telegraphic instrument” that at the tunnel’s entrances rang a huge brass bell. The tunnel recorded 51, 694 vehicles traveled through the tunnel on the first day it was opened.

The tunnel’s important stats were posted in Time such as the cost being $48.4 million, the total length, said to be “the longest of its kind in the world”, measured at 9,250 feet, excavation measured as being 500,000 cubic yards of rock and soil, the river length underneath being 5,480 feet as well as the yearly and hourly vehicle capacity respectively being 15,000,000 and 3,800. Also, the article pointed out the most unique thing regarding the tunnel was a ventilation system that was sophisticated.

Obviously, this was extremely important to have as it would be a foolish and deadly idea to build an underground road for trucks and cars if there wasn’t a way to refrain from carbon monoxide existing in the air by the engineers. Fortunately, a group of scientists from the Bureau of Mines at Yale and the University of Illinois determined that the air could be deadly when four parts of the lethal gas reaches 10,000. 

Therefore, the recommendation was to create a two-duct ventilation system by the tunnel’s engineers so that anyone in the tunnel would be provided to breathe in fresh air. Time described in the article that “To prevent disaster, Chief Engineer Holland installed 84 ventilating fans in four 10 story buildings, two on each side of the Hudson. Part of them blow fresh air into the tunnel floor through vents while others suck vitiated air through ducts in the tunnel ceiling. Thus, they change the tunnel air completely 42 times an hour with 56 of the fans needing to do so.” However, 28 of these fans would be on stand-by in case of an emergency. The amount of time for the air to be replaced with fresh air throughout the tunnel is roughly 90 seconds.

Sadly, one thing that has changed over the decades is the price of the tolls. When the tunnel originally opened, the amount for the toll in both directions per car was 50 cents. The Port Authority of New Jersey and New York made the change from the toll being charged for both directions to one-way tolls in 1970. Decades later, the price for tolls increased and had reached $8 for a one-way toll by 2009.

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Meg Wong

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