If you want to go from mid-town Manhattan to New Jersey, you’ll probably end up taking the Lincoln Tunnel. And with roughly 120,000 cars using it every day, you’re probably not going to look forward to the journey. So next time you have to use what is officially the busiest roadway in the country (a fact you could guess even if you didn’t know it), instead of grinding your teeth over the congestion and the stupidity of other drivers, try thinking about these Lincoln Tunnel facts.
Here are some facts to make your journey more interesting:
You Can Walk It.
Actually, you can’t, you can run it. But only on one day a year. Every April, the Lincoln Tunnel is closed to traffic for one morning and hosts the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge. This unique 5-kilometer race goes through the tunnel from Weehawken to New York and back again, with proceeds going to support the Special Olympics New Jersey. And with up to 3,000 runners participating, it’s only slightly less congested than normal traffic.
Elephants Have Walked It
Don’t worry; they weren’t used as cheap labor during construction. Rail workers strike in May 1971 left the performers and animals from the circus The Greatest Show on Earth stranded on the wrong side of the river from Madison Square Garden, where they were due to perform that night. As the show must go on, no matter what, most of them were taken by truck to the venue. But because of their size 19 elephants, a zebra, a llama and a pony had to hoof it through the tunnel and another eight blocks to the Garden.
It Was the Scene of a Shootout.
On September 8, 1953, Peter Simon and John Metcalf tried and failed to rob a house in South Orange New Jersey. After being chased away by angry residents, the pair tried to make it back to the anonymity of New York through the tunnel but their car’s license plate had been reported to the police. When it was spotted entering the tunnel by the transit authorities, the police commandeered a delivery truck and gave chase. What followed was a good old-fashioned (meaning pretty slow by today’s standards) high-speed car chase and shootout. 28 shots were fired in total and it all came to a dramatic end when the driver of the getaway car, Peter Simon, was shot in the head about three-quarters of the way through.
It Had Catwalk Cars.
Ever noticed the rails running along the side of the tunnel? They aren’t there as some form of bizarre decoration or safety measure. The police once ran little one-seater open cars along them to monitor traffic. So if you think driving through is a pain, imagine that job, going back and forth through the tunnel all day long with nothing to protect you from the fumes, noise and dirt.
The Hudson is Slowly Uncovering the Tunnel.
Actually, maybe you don’t want to think about this one too much when you’re driving through, but a change in the river current is causing the riverbed to wash away and reveal the brickwork of the tunnel. The construction of Battery Park City, which sticks out into the river, made the current shift from its historic course along the edge of Lower Manhattan towards the center of the river. This is slowly uncovering parts of the tunnel, which is not good news for the future. So much for Environmental Impact Assessments.
So as you can see, the Lincoln Tunnel is much more than just an unavoidable inconvenience. As well as being one of the main arteries of the city, it’s also a fascinating historic monument in its own right and part of what makes New York the greatest city on Earth.
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