7. The Queens Midtown Tunnel Was Much More Difficult to Build than the Lincoln Tunnel
Photo courtesy MTA
Ole Singstad, the same tunnel engineer behind the Holland Tunnel, was also the mastermind behind the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Due to geological variations below the East River, however, drilling under the bed rock (particularly for the Manhattan side) was a much more difficult and costly procedure during the construction of the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
To carry out the task, “Sandhogs” were hired at $11.50 per hour to excavate landfill 10 stories beneath the East River. The bedrock first had to be blasted with dynamite before circular cutting shields were used to tunnel through soil at 18-feet per week, compared to a 45-feet daily excavation rate of the Lincoln Tunnel. The drastic difference was due to the fact that the material during the construction of the Lincoln Tunnel was porous enough to be pushed to the side, rather than removed. In comparison, every bit of material excavated for the Queens Midtown Tunnel had to be lifted out via shafts. Amazingly, the digging was still completed months ahead of the date that was initially planned.