Opening to traffic for the first time in 1937, the Lincoln Tunnel, which connects New Jersey to Midtown Manhattan, was hailed as the New Deal’s next great engineering triumph. The tunnel was designed by Ole Singstad, a Norwegian-American civil engineer who designed a number of tunnels across the country. A second tube was built shortly after the Lincoln Tunnel’s first, with a third requested in the 1950s due to increasing traffic. To this day, the three tunnels service thousands of cars and buses coming in and out of New York City.

Lincoln Tunnel
Photo courtesy Port Authority of NY/NJ

Join Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer, Justin Rivers, as he drives you through the secrets and marvels of NYC’s infamous pieces of infrastructure — without having to sit in traffic. Learn about the famous catwalks police used to use to monitor traffic. Delight in the story of the elephants that once walked through the tunnel. Unpack the nightmarish conditions endured in building the tunnel and how popular demand required a third tunnel to be built. And discover new threats to the structural integrity of the tunnel as Hudson River tides shift. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS). You can also purchase a ticket to the event for $10 without becoming a member.

Lincoln Tunnel historic image

Secrets of the Lincoln Tunnel

The Lincoln Tunnel, named after President Abraham Lincoln, is one of the busy roadways, with upwards of 120,000 cars passing through every day. The Tunnel’s separate bus lane sees about 1,700 buses every morning. It was first crossed by Omero Catan, who was also the first to cross the George Washington Bridge, the first to use the 8th Avenue subway, the first to skate in Rockefeller Plaza, and the first to lead the public through the newly opened Lincoln Tunnel in 1937.

New York New Jersey boundary
The Lincoln Tunnel connects New York and New Jersey.

Construction of the 1.5-mile tunnel was quite a daunting task. To support the cavities that workers dug out, they installed a series of 21-ton iron rings set into the walls. Those who dug the tunnels, who were called sandhogs, used a series of airlocks to depressurize and re-pressurize their bodies while entering a new section of the tunnel. The excavation involved digging, lining the walls with the rings, pouring cement into every crease and crack to keep the water out, and finally moving along to the next airlock.

Among some of the stranger secrets of the Lincoln Tunnel is that a gunfight and car chase occurred within it in 1953. On the afternoon of September 8, 1953, two men who had attempted to rob a house in South Orange, NJ, were chased away by its residents, and perpetrators Peter Simon and John Metcalf escaped into the Lincoln Tunnel. After being spotted by authorities, a car chase among traffic occurred, with police commandeering a delivery truck and firing shots at the getaway car as it swerved around other vehicles. In all, 28 shots were fired, and Simon was shot in the head.

Inside Lincoln Tunnel with cars
Inside the Lincoln Tunnel.

Additionally, on May 17, 1971, a rail workers strike stranded circus performers and animals from The Greatest Show on Earth about five miles away from Madison Square Garden. While most of the caravans made the rest of the journey by truck, a convoy of 19 elephants, a zebra, a llama and a pony crossed into New York through the Lincoln Tunnel.

Join Untapped New York’s Chief Experience Officer, Justin Rivers, as he drives you through the secrets and marvels of NYC’s infamous pieces of infrastructure. The event is free for Untapped New York Insiders (and get your first month free with code JOINUS).

Secrets of the Lincoln Tunnel

Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Lincoln Tunnel!