Sunday, November 21, 2010
Happy birthday, Queens Midtown Tunnel
From the Queens Gazette:
A fter 20 years of lobbying and planning and four years of hard labor, the Queens Midtown Tunnel, linking Manhattan and Long Island City, Queens, opened on November 15, 1940 to the public. At the time it was the largest, non-federal public works project in the nation.
To commemorate the tunnel’s 70th anniversary, MTA Bridges and Tunnels will have a collection of historic photographs from the construction of the tunnel on display in the lobby of its Lower Manhattan offices at 2 Broadway through the end of the month.
On November 8, 1939, LaGuardia pulled a switch to blast the last six feet of rock between the Manhattan and Queens shields in both tubes. A year and one week later, opening ceremonies were held on the Manhattan toll plaza, attended by Roosevelt, who was the first person to drive through the new tunnel. Other attendees included Mayor LaGuardia, state Senator Robert Wagner and the tunnel’s Chief Engineer Ole Singstad, a wellknown tunnel builder who finished building the Holland Tunnel after the death of its original engineer.
In its first full year of operation, 4.4 million vehicles used the tunnel, while in 2009 that figure was 27.7 million.
Now, 70 years later, the tunnel appears much the same as it did when it opened in 1940, with the exception of the original brick roadway, which was replaced with asphalt in 1995, and the addition of EZPass technology. The last major rehabilitation project, a $126 million project completed in 2001, replaced some of the original 1930s materials that created brighter lighting, new ceilings, new tiles along the walls and an entirely new traffic control system, including electronic message signs and traffic control lights and signals.