Lincoln Tunnel

From New World Encyclopedia

Lincoln Tunnel
Lincoln Tunnel
Carries 6 lanes of NJ 495/NY 495
Crosses Hudson River
Locale Weehawken, NJ and
Manhattan, NY
Maintained by Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
Total length 7,482 feet (North Tube)
8,216 feet (Center Tube)
8,006 feet (South Tube)
Width 21.5 feet
Vertical clearance 13 feet
AADT 120,000
Opening date December 22, 1937 (Center Tube)
February 1, 1945 (North Tube)
May 25, 1957 (South Tube)
Toll $6.00 (eastbound) (E-ZPass)

The Lincoln Tunnel is a 1.5-mile long tunnel under the Hudson River, connecting Weehawken, New Jersey and the borough of Manhattan at West Thirty-Ninth Street in New York City. With a traffic flow of approximately 21 million vehicles annually, it is the busiest vehicular tunnel in the world.

The Lincoln Tunnel established a key linkage for the mid-twentieth-century expansion of the inter-state metropolitan region centered in New York City. New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and powerful political leader Robert Moses supported the project both as part of a forward-thinking, regional-development plan and as a much-needed, depression-era source of employment.

By allowing for more car and bus traffic with its opening in 1945, the Lincoln Tunnel (along with the Holland Tunnel, opened in 1927, and the George Washington Bridge, opened in 1931) reduced area residents' dependency on commuter railroads and ferries while encouraging the use of the passenger car as a key factor in the vital region's growth.


The Lincoln Tunnel was designed by Ole Singstad, with construction of the first of its three tubes under the Hudson River beginning on May 17, 1934. Workers confronted claustrophobic and dangerous conditions, including floods and high pressures in a work zone as deep as 97 feet below the river's surface. The Lincoln Tunnel opened to traffic in 1937, charging 50 cents per passenger car. The costs of construction were about $80 million. Omero C. Catan, a salesman from Manhattan, drove the first car through the tunnel, after waiting in line for 30 hours.

Did you know?
The first tube of the Lincoln Tunnel opened to traffic in 1937

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey responded to increasing traffic by ordering a second tube, which was in the original plans. However, work on it was halted in 1938 and was not resumed until 1941, due to war-material shortages of metal. It opened on February 1, 1945, with Michael Catan, brother of the above-mentioned Omero, selected to be the first to lead the public through the tube.

A third tube was proposed by the Port Authority, but initially opposed by the City of New York, which was attempting to convince the Port Authority to help pay for the road improvements that the City would need to handle the additional traffic. A compromise was worked out, and the third tunnel was finally completed in May 1957.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Port Authority reported that nearly 21 million vehicles used the tunnel annually, making it the busiest vehicular tunnel in the world.


The Lincoln Tunnel runs under the Hudson River to join New Jersey to New York City at Thirty-ninth Street.

The three tubes within the tunnel carry six traffic lanes in total. During the morning rush-hour, one traffic lane, known as the XBL, is used exclusively by buses. The New Jersey approach roadway, locally known as the Helix or "the Corkscrew," spirals in a full circle before arriving at the toll booths in front of the tunnel portals.

The XBL is by far the busiest and most productive bus lane in the United States. The lane operates weekday mornings between 6:15 and 10:00 a.m., accommodating approximately 1,700 buses and 62,000 commuters, mainly to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The XBL carries more trans-Hudson commuter trips into midtown Manhattan each day than any other mode, including commuter rail into Penn Station.

The Lincoln Tunnel carries approximately 120,000 vehicles per day.

Crimes in the tunnel

Shortly after noon on September 8, 1953, two armed men, Peter Simon and John Metcalf, attempted to rob a home in South Orange, New Jersey. The men were driven off by the residents, one of whom reported the license plate on their car to the police, who posted an alert. A patrolman, Nicholas Falabella, noticed the car just as it passed the toll booth at the Lincoln Tunnel and ordered the driver to stop the vehicle.

The driver sped off into the tunnel, firing at the police. A Port Authority policeman, Donald Lackmun, was hit in the leg. The police commandeered a delivery truck and gave chase, exchanging gun fire with the renegade car while weaving in and out of traffic. In all 28 shots were fired, ten by the gunmen and 18 by the police. The vehicle came to a stop about three fourths of the way through the tunnel. Simon was hit in the head.

The tunnel was targeted by terrorists to be destroyed in the summer of 1993 in the New York City landmark bomb plot, but the plan was foiled. After the 2001 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center's Twin Towers, the tunnel is again presumed to be a possible terror target, as its destruction would kill hundreds if not thousands of people and cause major economic troubles.

Route numbers

With the cancellation of the Mid-Manhattan Expressway—intended to carry Interstate 495 through New York City to the Queens Midtown Tunnel and onto the Long Island Expressway—the New York and New Jersey departments of transportation demoted the Lincoln Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to state routes. In New Jersey, the freeway was officially demoted to NJ 495 and very few signs still read "I-495." Thirty-forth Street links the disjointed segments of I-495.

In popular culture

  • In Abbott and Costello Go to Mars two scenes take place in which their spaceship flies into the tunnel.
  • In Stephen King's book The Stand, two of its characters exit New York through the Lincoln Tunnel. The city is dead after a virus epidemic and the tunnel is clogged with cars and corpses.
  • In the 2003 film Elf, lead character Will Ferrel walks through the Lincoln Tunnel to get to New York City.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Campbell, Patrick. Tunnel Tigers. P.H. Campbell, 2000. ISBN 978-0963770110
  • Cunningham, Richard. A Ceremony in the Lincoln Tunnel; Sheeds, Andrews, & McMeel, 1978. ISBN 978-0836261059
  • Port of New York Authority. Port of New York Authority. Lincoln Tunnel. New Jersey Approach: New York, 1938.
  • Tashman, Billy. The Lincoln Tunnel, Metropolis, 1992.

External links

All links retrieved October 29, 2022.


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