Some Holland Tunnel History

The Holland Tunnel was not always operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.


The Holland Tunnel, originally referred to as the “Hudson River Vehicular Tunnel” or the “Canal Street Tunnel,” opened in 1927. It was funded by collaboration between the New Jersey Interstate Bridge and Tunnel Commission and the New York State Bridge and Tunnel Commission. The tunnel operated under the supervision of these two state commissions until the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) took over operations in April, 1930.


The Holland Tunnel was the first Hudson River crossing for vehicles, connecting Canal Street in Manhattan with 12th and 14th streets in Jersey City, NJ. The state commissions originally considered building a bridge, but abandoned the idea in favor of the tunnel for cost reasons. The cost of land for access ways to a bridge at a height of 200 feet, which was the minimum requirement to allow passage for ships, was cost prohibitive.

Interestingly, the tunnel does not bear the name of a war hero or famous political figure. Because it was considered an exceptional engineering accomplishment, it was named after its first chief engineer, Clifford M. Holland. Mr. Holland unfortunately died before the tunnel was completed and the tunnel was finally completed under the leadership of Ole Singstad.

The Holland tunnel consists of two tubes, each providing two lanes of traffic, located in the bedrock beneath the river. The lowest point of the tunnel is approximately 93 feet below mean high water. One of the biggest challenges of the tunnel was how to ventilate it and properly remove the automobile exhaust fumes. The circular tunnel has an automatic ventilation system operated by four ventilation buildings that house large fans that provide a change of air every 90 seconds. This innovation made the tunnel the first mechanically ventilated underwater tunnel for vehicle travel.

Donald Scarinci is a managing partner at Lyndhurst, N.J. based law firm Scarinci Hollenbeck.  He is also the editor of the Constitutional Law Reporter and Government and Law blogs.

Some Holland Tunnel History