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Unique Walking Tours in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Miracle on 34th St – Queens Midtown Tunnel

Queens Midtown Tunnel

Queens Midtown TunnelThe Queens Midtown Tunnel connects Manhattan and Queens just off of 34th Street by going under the East River. There are 2 lanes of traffic going each way and are about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) long each.

The Queens–Midtown Tunnel was originally proposed in 1921, the plan resurfaced in 1926 and was finally approved in 1929. They started exploring plans and engineering options while also looking at the possibility of building a bridge instead of a tunnel. The project was now expected to cost $93.6 million, including the $23.5 million alignment under the East River and within Queens. Construction was to start in March 1932 and the East River segment would be complete by 1936. By July 1932, no contracts had been awarded because of a lack of funding, and the tunnel’s cost had increased to $80 million.

In 1935 the plan was revised and the federal government allocated $58.3 million for the tunnel’s construction in January 1936. After yet another revision of the plans, a groundbreaking ceremony for the tunnel was held on the Queens side on October 1, 1936, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in attendance. After the test bores were completed in November 1936, engineers determined that there was a large concentration of solid rock and tunnels for the East River railroad traffic creating obstacles to constructing the tunnel.

Finally, work on the underwater section of the tubes started in April 1938. The tunnel was 60% complete by May 1939. The disjointed segments of both tubes were connected with a “holing through” ceremony in November 1939, with a margin of error of less than 0.5 inches (13 mm).

The Queens–Midtown Tunnel finished on schedule in late 1940. Roosevelt was the first person to drive through the tunnel, on October 28, 1940.

New York City Tunnel Authority had estimated that the tunnel would carry 10 million vehicles in its first year and would reach its 16-million annual-vehicle capacity by 1952. It carries more than that each year and has only been through 1 major renovation in its 70 years of operation. That was when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 and flooded the tunnels.

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