The GWB: A Rhapsody in Steel

By Ashley Germinario, Media Relations Staff

Over the years, the clinks and clanks of the majestic George Washington Bridge have inspired musicians and composers to express their musical skills in highly creative ways.

From the early days of the bridge’s construction, musicians felt an immediate connection to its large steel beams, its classic structure and the sounds the great span produced. The legendary American composer Aaron Copland was inspired by the rhythmic sound of the bridge’s construction; the low-pitched drill of the GWB during its construction made an appearance in his “Symphonic Ode,” which debuted in 1929, two years before the bridge opened.

The very first Pulitzer-Prize winner for music, Bronx native William Schuman, also expressed his endearment for this landmark through song. His triumphant 1950 composition “George Washington Bridge” illustrates the impact the architecture of someone’s birthplace can have on the creative mind. These musicians have the ability to take in what they see, and convert that into music that lights up the imagination.

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“Ever since my student days when I watched the progress of its construction, this bridge has had for me an almost human personality, and this personality is astonishingly varied, assuming different moods depending on the time of day or night, the weather, the traffic and, of course, my own mood as I pass by,” Schuman once wrote.

To listen to Schumann’s ode to the GWB, as performed by the United States Marine Band:

Besides inspiring onlookers and musicians, the GWB is a work of art in itself. Othmar Ammann, the bridge’s brilliant chief engineer, had a vision that took the GWB from a mere idea to a functioning facility that handled more than 5.5 million vehicles in its first full year of operation. The bridge originally was to be encased in stone, but the prohibitive cost and the advent of the Depression during construction made it an unaffordable luxury. Today, it supports more than 103 million vehicles per year, making it the world’s busiest motor vehicle bridge.

At the bridge’s opening ceremony in 1931, John F. Galvin, then chairman of the Port Authority, proclaimed, “this massive structure is as beautiful as it is graceful. It is a dream of 75 years come true. It is the first over-water connection spanning this great river between Manhattan and the rest of the North American Continent. It is truly one of the world’s wonders and a marvel of engineering skill.”

As Schuman would later put it: “It’s difficult to imagine a more gracious welcome or dramatic entry to the great metropolis.”

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Posted in George Washington Bridge, Uncategorized

The “Summer of Help”

By Joe Iorio and Ashley Germinario, Media Relations Staff

Throughout PATH’s successful cross-honoring operation during the so-called “summer of hell,” more than 100 “ambassadors” sporting bright-yellow vests have played an essential role in keeping passengers moving.

These ambassadors are Port Authority employees and interns volunteering their time and energy to provide information and assist with passenger flow at Hoboken, 33rd Street and World Trade Center stations, where tens of thousands of additional NJ Transit customers are cross-honored each day during Amtrak’s infrastructure renewal project at New York Penn Station.

Since July 10, ambassadors have helped ease commuter uncertainties and aided PATH in handling an average weekday increase of more than 22,000 NJT riders a day. Whether explaining directions, answering questions or just offering a warm smile and a wave to brighten the day of customers, Port Authority ambassadors share a common goal of helping their customers.

No matter their work location or department, whether a summer intern or 20-year veteran, PATH could not maintain high levels of safety and operational efficiency during the Amtrak Penn Station project without their assistance.

“Preparing and executing a strategy to meet the demands of this significant ridership increase is a true team effort,” said PATH General Manager/Director Mike Marino. “Our ambassadors have done a great job of helping facilitate a smoother commute for both our regular customers and our new customers from NJT Midtown Direct trains.”

Portfolio recently visited the front lines of the cross-honoring effort at Hoboken and 33rd Street, for a sense of who the ambassadors are and their perspectives on a summer of hell that, to date, has been less than hellish.

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 From left: PATH Passenger Information Agent Philip Silvestro, Intern Grace Ostolozaga, Station Supervisor Lorraine Orosz, Intern Elliot Sotnick and PATH Senior Planning Engineer Keniven Coughlin.

PATH Station Supervisor Lorraine Orosz. After six years with the Port Authority in four different positions, Lorraine said that she has found a home at PATH because of the unique work environment. No two days are ever the same, she says.

Orosz has spent every weekday morning rush hour since July 10 at Hoboken to help usher NJ Transit customers onto PATH trains bound for Manhattan. She is building personal relationships with many of the regular riders now relying on the PATH system to get them to work in the morning. She thinks people were pleasantly surprised with how well PATH accommodated the extra daily influx of NJT cross-honored passengers.

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Addison Lovell, Assistant PATH Station Supervisor. Lovell has worked for the Port Authority for more than 29 years, bringing a positive attitude to work with him every day. Managing the daily crowds at the 33rd Street station during the Penn Station project this summer has been a breeze because, he says, he enjoys “managing chaos.” Not that there’s been an abundance of chaos. Lovell explained the 33rd Street station has maintained a great atmosphere with no problems thus far.

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Keniven Coughlin, PATH Senior Planning Engineer. During a recent Hoboken shift, Coughlin said he believes that commuters have “completely adjusted” to their new work routes, and are becoming more friendly with the volunteers waving them through the turnstiles.

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Atul Ragoowansi, Port Authority Senior Program Manager. A 25-year Port Authority veteran, Ragoowansi spent a recent shift at the 33rd Street PATH station cross-honoring NJT customers. During a peak afternoon shift, he found the atmosphere was “pretty calm and things worked out pretty well.”

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Port Authority Intern Rahul Ochani. Ochani, a student at St. John’s University, has manned several shifts at 33rd Street. Being an ambassador, he said, gives him the opportunity to interact with customers, limit any confusion and answer any and all questions they have about their travels. He and his fellow volunteers have received frequent compliments from commuters on their hard work and efforts to keep things running smoothly.

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World Trade Center Construction Intern Elliot Sotnick (center). Sotnick is an engineering student at Cornell University who has worked a series of cross-honoring assignments at the Hoboken station. He was part of an ambassador team dispatched on the first shift of the first morning.

“Things have gone much better than my shift on the first day of service changes at Penn Station,” he said. “I thought I would see a lot more people angry with the process, but surprisingly, most people were calm and patient.”

PATH is still seeking additional volunteers for shifts at Hoboken, 33rd Street and World Trade Center stations. Port Authority employees interested in volunteering should contact their supervisor for more details.

 

 

Posted in PATH, PATH customer service, Uncategorized, WTC PATH station

Throwback Thursday: 8 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About the Holland Tunnel

By Ashley Germinario, Media Relations Staff

The Holland Tunnel is a known world leader in tunnel design, a critical artery between New York and New Jersey, and one of the Port Authority’s essential assets and enduring engineering achievements.

Just short of its 90th birthday, however, there is much about the venerable tunnel that’s probably less well-known to the traveling public. Here are eight Holland Tunnel facts every aficionado should know.

  • What’s in a name? It was originally called the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel, but that rather dry appellation left something to be desired. So it was eventually renamed for the project’s chief engineer, Clifford M. Holland.
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Holland’s bust sits at the entrance of the tunnel to the New York side

  • Walk, don’t drive. Believe it or not, more than 20,000 pedestrians actually walked on opening day from one end of the tunnel to the other — a distance of 9,250 feet — even before the first vehicles were able to enter.
  • The Holland’s biggest fans. The tunnel was the first in the world to have a ventilation system for automobiles to keep fresh air flowing in, while expelling toxic carbon monoxide. To keep the tunnel clear of exhaust, a total of 84 fans are arranged in four ventilation buildings – 42 air-blowers and 42 exhaust fans.
  • Take the over. In 1919, Holland, and his team estimated that the tunnel, still a long way from completion, would only carry about 15 million vehicles a year. They were a little off. By the 13th year of operation, the tunnel was handling more than 20 million cars and trucks. Today, the tubes accommodate more than 34 million vehicles a year.
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Cars line up for a trip through the new tunnel on opening day, November 1927

  • The ferry alternative. The Holland Tunnel was the first efficient alternative to ferry and railroad-based transportation systems in the explosive early era of the automobile. Ferries, the original transportation method, were extremely overburdened and incapable of meeting the growing need created by the driving public in New York and New Jersey.
  • Driving the catwalk. A narrow one-person electric car called the “cat-walk car” was the newest invention for the Holland tunnel in 1955. It was used by police to patrol the entire length of the tunnel easily and to avoid getting stuck in traffic.
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Port Authority police cut a narrow path along the cat walk of the tunnel

  • One for the books. The Holland Tunnel was named a National Historic Civil and Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil and Mechanical Engineers in 1984. Nine years later, it was designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
  •  That’ll be four bits, please. The original toll for cars passing through the Holland Tunnel, in both directions, was a mere 50 cents, making the tunnel extremely popular from the get-go.
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A ticket used by early patrons of the Holland Tunnel

Posted in Uncategorized