The Building of the Lincoln Tunnel: Titans’ Work Beneath the Hudson

By Roz Hamlett, Editor

In the late 1920s, despite the overwhelming financial success of the Holland Tunnel, traffic congestion in mid-town Manhattan remained a huge problem.  But no one could have aniticipated that the stock market crash in 1929 and the Great Depression of the 1930s would make financing a new trans-Hudson tunnel crossing such a tough nut to crack.  In order to obtain financing, the Port Authority turned to the Progress Works Administration, a federal New Deal agency that in 1933 loaned the Port Authority $37,500,000 in return for the agency’s agreement to build one tube instead of two.

What follows is a slideshow of photographs taken during construction of the first tube of the Lincoln Tunnel between 1935 and 1937 and the cast of characters who tunneled beneath the Hudson River, who newspaper reporter, L.H. Robbins, dubbed as “Big Irishmen, Italians, Negroes, Poles and Swedes, ox-strong, rough-clad, and spattered with mud, plaster and red lead.  A heroic race they are, they and the stout-hearted Sandhogs, gamely and proudly doing Titans’ work down under the tide, under the town, making the world convenient for the rest of us.”

Work on the second tube began in 1938, but because of labor and material shortages caused by World War II, the work was suspended and the second tube was not ready until 1945.  The Port Authority decided in 1951 to add a third tube, which was completed in 1957, a full thirty years after the opening of the Holland Tunnel.

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