Lights, Camera, Accidents: Full-scale Training at the GWB

Photos and video by Rudy King, Media Relations Staff

The George Washington Bridge is the world’s busiest bridge, with more than 100 million vehicles crossing the span each year. That volume of traffic, under the best of circumstances, means a lot of accidents will occur – some simple fender-benders, others more serious and even deadly.

To prepare for worst-case scenarios, the GWB hosts periodic, full-scale emergency response drills, directed by the Port Authority’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). These exercises bring together members of the Port Authority Police Department, the agency’s Operations staff and emergency response representatives of federal, state and local agencies.

The OEM creates these elaborate exercises, which take place at all Port Authority facilities, to test emergency plans for mutual aid response and enable personnel from different emergency response organizations to train together and validate response procedures.

With sirens blaring, lights flashing and radio communications squawking, the multi-agency response team conducted such an exercise on a recent early Sunday morning along the bridge’s lower level. Volunteer “actors” were sprawled across the roadway near flipped-over cars, in makeup that simulated car injuries. The scene seemed as much a live-action movie set as an emergency response drill designed to save lives and get medical attention quickly to those in need.

Check out the video and photos below for a deeper look at the high drama of a GWB training exercise:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Posted in George Washington Bridge, GWB, PAPD, Uncategorized

The Holland at 90: A Drive Down Memory Lane

By Media Relations Staff

Today marks the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Holland Tunnel, the first trans-Hudson vehicle crossing linking New York and New Jersey and designated as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1993.

The Holland has had its share of unique, innovative and entertaining moments over the past nine decades.

 Seven years in the making. The New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission decided they needed something new, different and more efficient to move traffic between the two states. On October 12, 1920, construction began on what initially was called the Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel.

New hands on the wheel. While the two state commissions were the original operators of the new tunnel, their stewardship didn’t last long. In April 1930, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey – then called the Port of New York Authority – assumed operations of the three-year-old underwater conduit.

Holland Tunnel 001

The Holland Tunnel from the Jersey City side, circa 1930

What’s in a name? Not surprisingly, few thought Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel would last as the project’s permanent name. That honor would go to Clifford Millburn Holland, the first tunnel chief engineer who designed the tunnel but didn’t live to see his dream completed. Holland died of a heart attack the day before the two halves of the tunnels were scheduled to finally connect in October 1924. 

Key to success. Even the President of the United States had a key role, literally speaking, in its unveiling. From his yacht in the Potomac River, President Calvin Coolidge turned a gold telegraph key – the kind used to send Morse code – to signal the parting of two flags situated at the front of the tunnel at 4:55 p.m. And the HT was officially open.

Walk, don’t drive. The tunnel was opened to foot traffic before it allowed cars to pass through. In the first two hours, more than 20,000 people walked the 1.6 miles from the Jersey City side to Lower Manhattan.

 The price was right. The Holland Tunnel cost $48.5 million to build, an extraordinary financial commitment at the time – and a fraction of what it would cost today. If the project were undertaken now, the estimated price tag would be well in excess of $1 billion.

Fanning the fame. None of the Holland’s “firsts” is as important as its celebrated ventilation system. Ole Singstad, one of the facility’s original engineers, designed an automatic ventilation system with a total of 84 blowers and exhaust fans and four ventilation buildings, two on each side of the Hudson. The fans cleared exhaust fumes every 90 seconds. That made the Holland the first mechanically ventilated underwater vehicular tunnel, setting an engineering standard still in use today.

Holland Tunnel 002

One of the Holland Tunnel’s exhaust fans

Driving the catwalk. State-of-the-art ventilators weren’t the only novel idea attached to the Holland. In 1955, the facility’s newest invention, the so-called catwalk car, made its debut. The electric vehicle allowed police to patrol the entire length of the tunnel to avoid getting stuck in traffic.

Holland Tunnel 003

An officer gestures to a motorist in the south tube of the tunnel

By the numbers. Clifford Holland and his team originally predicted the tunnel eventually would carry about 15 million vehicles a year. During its first full year of operation (1928) the tunnel handled more than 8.74 million vehicles.  By the 13th year of operation, the tunnel was handling more than 20 million cars and trucks, and the tubes today accommodate more than 34 million vehicles a year.

Holland Tunnel 004

A typical commute at the Holland Tunnel in the 1980s

Posted in Uncategorized

Port Authority & Stewart Airport: 10 Years, and Climbing

By Joe Iorio, Media Relations Staff

More than a decade ago, as congestion at the three major airports operated by the Port Authority continued to grow, agency officials searched for ways to expand the Port’s airport capacity while better serving passengers throughout the New York-New Jersey region.

The PA set its sights on Stewart International Airport in upstate Newburgh, about an hour north of New York City. The decision to invest in Stewart was about the future of travel for the region and giving passengers better cost and convenience options in booking their flights.

Last week, the Port Authority celebrated the 10th anniversary of its stewardship of the airport. Over the past decade, the PA has invested more than $181 million as part of a 10-year capital improvement plan, leading to the rehabilitation of runways, terminal upgrades, new amenities and expansion of parking lots and airline services.

Eddy

Ed Harrison, General Manager Stewart Airport

“It’s been quite a journey,” said Stewart General Manager Ed Harrison, who followed Diannae Ehler, the first Stewart GM after the acquisition, and later Richard Heslin. “As we continue to make improvements to the facility, and add airlines, routes and destinations, more passengers will be able to take advantage of these growing travel opportunities.”

Acquiring Stewart was an unusual investment for the Port Authority. It was located well outside the agency’s Port District, which is defined as 25 miles or less from the Statue of Liberty. But, as then-Port Authority Chairman Anthony Coscia noted in a recent newspaper article marking the 10th anniversary, the time was right for thinking outside the box.

“The decision to invest in Stewart was fundamentally a decision about the future, about planning not just for the next business cycle but for the next century,” Coscia told the Times Herald-Record.

Airport

Courtesy of Rudy King

The investment has been a strong economic generator for the Hudson Valley, as more than half of the awarded construction projects have gone to local firms and contractors, creating $450 million in economic activity and about 2,700 jobs.

About 400,000 passengers are expected to pass through Stewart this year. Domestic and international service has risen, notably in an arrangement with Norwegian Air. In June 2017, the airline partnered with Stewart to offer regularly scheduled international service to destinations in Scotland, Norway, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

 

Above: Norwegian Air’s first flight arrives at Stewart. (Courtesy of Rudy King)

Coach USA is operating ‘Stewart Express,’ a bus service that operates four times daily between Stewart and the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The schedule is timed to Norwegian’s arrivals and departures, with a fare of $20 each way.

Since 2015, the airport has been hosting the annual New York Air Show, featuring some of the nation’s top civilian and military air show performers. This year’s event was showcased by the Navy’ s “Blue Angels.” Next year, the show will feature the Air Force “Thunderbirds.” The two-day spectacle attracts thousands of fans and contributes $5.5 million to the local economy each year.

With the advent of the New York Air Show, Norwegian Air’s service to Europe, and the addition by Allegiant Air of flights to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and two new destinations in Florida, Stewart’s ascent continues.

First Flight Passengers

Passengers from Norwegian Air’s inaugural flight from Dublin, Ireland, christening a new era in international flight for the airport.

“The Port Authority has an unwavering commitment to Stewart International and will continue to expand in both business and air service development,” said Port Authority Director of Aviation Huntley Lawrence. “We look forward to having more travelers choose Stewart as their airport.”

To learn more about the travel experience and services at Stewart International Airport, go to:  http://www.panynj.gov/airports/stewart

Posted in Uncategorized