The Queens Midtown Tunnel is a highway tunnel that is also a toll road, and it is located in New York City. The tunnel is one of the most well known architectural structures in New York. The Queens Midtown tunnel is a great example of the power of the architect’s thought looking far into the future and designing the projects that are predicted to be of high importance in the city the way it is going to be tomorrow.
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The design of the Queens Midtown tunnel was inspired by another tunnel, which was built a little earlier. That tunnel was called the Holland tunnel, and it served for the connection between New Jersey and Manhattan. The Holland Tunnel is now considered and called the older sister of the Queens Midtown tunnel.
The projecting and building of the first tunnel gave the engineers who worked on it a lot of experience and taught many very useful lessons about this type of construction. This is why the new structure, which was the Midtown tunnel, turned out to be so successful.
Besides, the time the engineers spent working in the Holland tunnel was three years longer than it took them to create the Queens Midtown tunnel, this is one of the advantages of the experience received while building the first tunnel. Another technique that was used after the lessons the engineers have learned with the Holland tunnel was the ventilation system that is used to change the air in the tunnel.
The process of working on the tunnel began with massive excavations, which have shown that the types of the ground the workers had to go through were very different and this required a lot of equipment. The area covered by the tunnel is quite large, some of its parts had to be blasted through using dynamite, as no other ways of excavations were possible because of the geology of the earth there, which turned out to consist solidly of bedrock.
In other areas, the workers were using enormous cutting shields that were circulating through the ground under the river using hydraulic power. As the process moved forward, large rings made of steel and cast iron were put behind the drill made by the shields to support the structure. The tunnel was holed ahead of the scheduled time.
Generally, the operation took twenty-eight months, the workers were moving one hundred forty feet per month, and as a result, the drilling went successfully. Besides, this dangerous process went without any lethal accidents, which were highly possible due to the compression of the air inside of the tunnel.
The Queens Midtown tunnel was officially opened by the New York City Tunnel Authority in 1940 (Queens Midtown Tunnel, par. 1). The official opening of the tunnel was completed by the symbolic drive through it. The first driver to take the honor and use the tunnel was, of course, President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
It represented the result of the application of the most advanced technologies, and the most progressive engineering thought of its time. It became one of the biggest and most impressive projects put in practice in the New Deal era.
The success of the Queens Midtown tunnel was massive. During its first year after the opening, the tunnel has served to carry at least twelve thousand vehicles every day. The use of the tunnel could not be underestimated.
In 1946 Robert Moses started to suggest various improvements to the tunnel; he proposed to build expressways and arterial developments. Besides, Moses had an idea to add the third tube to the construction of the tunnel, but his proposals were declined.
At some point, the project was under a danger, because Robert Moses, who intended to take over the building of the Queens Midtown tunnel, and did not succeed, started to attempt to ruin the whole project and kill every progressive idea supporting it.
Fortunately, Robert Moses did not have enough power on his side, and all of his destructive plans were deflected by the supporters of the tunnel project. As a result, after a while, by 1965, Queens Midtown and Brooklyn Battery tunnels were able to provide much bigger revenue (Queens Midtown Tunnel, par. 19).
The designer and the chief engineer of the Queens Midtown tunnel was Ole Singstad. He was also involved in working on the Holland tunnel, and that experience helped him come up with the techniques of drilling and excavating through the unusually rocky geology of the ground under the East River.
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The two sister tunnels have slightly different sizes; the Queen Midtown tunnel consists of the two twin tubes, which are wider by one and a half feet than the tubes of the Holland Tunnel. This was done with the purpose to handle the cars of wider shapes and bigger sizes.
The architectural style of the building was not planned to match many aesthetic demands, the purpose of the Queens Midtown tunnel is mainly functional, so the structure of the building had to be pleasing for the eye, yet not decorative. The tunnel has its practical meaning.
This structure is built to fit into its environment so that it does not unbalance the landscape around. The tunnel does not call the attention to itself; this is the meaning of its aesthetic planning.
In the 1930s, New York City was predicted to start soon having a huge number of vehicles. This is why several various tunnels started to be planned to reduce the vehicular crowding in the busiest parts of highways.
In the modern days, the Queens Midtown tunnel serves to carry over eighty thousand vehicles every day, states the New York State Department of Transportation. The tunnel is truly a marvel of engineering thought and a fantastic result of long and careful planning.
The Queens Midtown tunnel started to be rehabilitated only in 1998, after almost sixty years of being used every day. The reconstruction of the tunnel included the replacement of the building’s roof, which consisted of nine hundred and thirty concrete slabs for each tube of the tunnel. Each of these slabs is twenty feet long, and its weight is eight tons. All the slabs were planned to be attached by the steel brackets to the concrete shell.
This process lasted for over three years, during the reconstruction, the tiles on the walls and ceiling of the tunnel were also changed, and new lights were placed inside of the tunnel. After that in 2004, a new project was launched. This improvement was directed at the fans of the tunnel.
The twenty-three original carbon steel fans were replaced by the new stainless steel fans. This project was mainly happening during the nights, and in general, it lasted four years.
At the moment the Queens Midtown tunnel stretches for over six thousand feet, from the Kips Bay area through the East Side of Manhattan to Queens, the Long Island City and has four traffic lanes. The diameter of the tunnel’s tubes is thirty-one feet. The construction of the tunnel counts thirteen thousand and nine hundred tons of structural steel used in various areas of the building.
The amount of cast iron included in the structure of the tunnel weighs sixty-five thousand and nine hundred tons. One hundred twenty thousand and eight hundred cubic yards of concrete were used for the structure of the tunnel and its lining. The total number of fans, both original and new ones, designed to change the air in the tunnel is forty-six. Initial costs covering the building of the original structure counted around fifty-three million dollars.
The Queens Midtown tunnel is an amazing result of the collective works of hundreds of specialists, the project of this structure was one of the biggest and most impressive achievements of its time, and the thought behind this construction is truly powerful and progressive. The tunnel was predicted to serve practical purposes and carry thousands of vehicles every day.
Today, seventy-three years later after the opening of the tunnel it is still highly popular, and its functions cannot be appreciated more. The amount of traffic in that area is surely huge, which causes certain problems for the drivers, yet the progressive planning of the construction allows it to serve its purposes decades after it has been projected and built.
Queens Midtown Tunnel. n. d. MTA info. Web.
Queens Midtown Tunnel: Historic Overview. n. d. NYCroads. Web.