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.
Some Dude

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.
Ferry alt

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.
PAPD Holl-

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.
Holland Fare

A ticket used by early patrons of the Holland Tunnel

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