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Friday, June 4, 2010

Coming attraction

As a kid growing up in Newark, I was always fascinated with the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. These were the two main routes for cars and buses to get us into and out of Manhattan to do our New York City stuff. Our other frequent mode of crossing the Hudson was the Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) train. PATH had its own tunnels, one set into midtown and another down toward the battery, ending up at what in the '70s became the World Trade Center. There was also the George Washington Bridge that went into the uptown part of the island, but we used it only occasionally.

The tunnels were something in my youthful days. There were actually police officers standing in little booths along the side of the roadways, watching out for problems. What a life it must have been to be a tunnel cop. There was probably a fair amount of alcohol consumed after each shift.

We boomers had missed out on the building of the tunnels. Indeed, the Holland Tunnel had been finished around the time my mother and father were born, whereas the Lincoln was a child of the '30s and '40s. The PATH tunnels -- or "tubes," as they were traditionally known -- were even older than the Holland.

Well, now we're going to get a chance to see one of these babies being built. The New York port authority is getting ready to dig another set of twin tunnels under the Hudson for more commuter trains from New Jersey. This set will wind up at Penn Station on the New York side -- and apparently, somewhere in North Bergen on the New Jersey side.

Given how far imaging and communications have come over the decades, we should get some views of this project that the spectators of the previous tunnel projects could only dream about. But let's hope the project is kinder to the construction workers -- dozens of men died building the old ones.

Comments (8)

Perhaps that will encourage Seattle as they tunnel to replace the Viaduct. Seattle seems nervous to even try.

As a Jersey escapee, I can relate. Driving in either tunnel always made me think about how much water was over my head, especially when there was an accident and traffic came to a dead stop.

Closest I can come to that in imagination was the light rail tunnels under the West Hills. During construction, there were a few times when they actually let you visit the site. That was surreal.

One man that I know of was killed during construction; pinned by an hydraulic something-or-other, as I recall.

Don't you mean: David "Tunnel" Paterson is blowing $XXX million on new "commuter trains" (rimshot)... GO BY TUNNEL (SARCASM)

Or is there too much sentimental value for all that?

Great. Now we're going to have to have us a pair of tunnels too. One for bikes, one for streetcars.

Hey, the mantra is walk, bike, ride.

Remember, everything is within walking distance - if you have enough time.

I truly hope that they watch te construction activity closely. More scrutiny certainly couldn't have hurt the public's interest in this project.

You're going to laugh, but I'm looking forward to this dig for other reasons. When LA got its subway, one of the side-effects was access to a whole slew of fossils, including the only known fossils of viperfish and other deep-sea fish. When the train tunnel went through the Tualatin Mountains, that gave a good opportunity to see what the Portland area was like two million years ago, when that volcanic eruption first occurred. And considering that the whole southern New York/northern New Jersey area is just rotten with Triassic dinosaur fossils, I know of at least two palaeontologists in the area who'll be watching the spoils piles around the dig site with more than usual interest.

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