Hudson River Crossings


Jesse Fried • Jun 14, 2017

From south to north, the the PATH tubes, the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, the NJ Transit/Amtrak Tunnel, and the George Washington Bridge all cross the Hudson. All together, these underground crossings are insufficient to handle the daily traffic across the river, especially in their current state of repair. Tunnel traffic and NJ transit delays are legendary, to an extent that has made them canonical in NJ lore, humor, conversations, local newspapers, etc. PATH delays and service interruptions are also an annoyance, though a less poetic one.

Why are they so bad?

New Jersey and New York authorities have always dreamed again and again of a massive, multi-level combination rail and roadway bridge across the Hudson connecting urban NJ with the heart of Manhattan. Gustav Lindenthal, one of NYC's great bridge builders, considered such a project his life's work. Around the turn of the century, he had captured the interest of the Pennsylvania Railroad in building it. According to Sharon Reier's The Bridges of New York:

Although the capacity of the bridge would have been greater than that of several tunnels, [Penna RR president] Cassatt was furious that other railroad companies would not contribute what he felt was a reasonable share of the cost of the bridge and were leaving a disproportionate burden of its financing to the Pennsy...He decided to build a tunnel to which only Pennsylvania Railroad trains would have access. The twin tunnels to Penn Station, used exclusively by Penn. trains, were finished in 1910. So was the station.

Probably, no one would have predicted that over a century later, those two tracks would remain the only rail link to Manhattan from the west. Motorists have more options, but still suffer from the region's failure to build a huge, definitive, record-breaking crossing, as was done elsewhere in the metro area. Time after time, such an undertaking proved too expensive, too technically difficult, and too politically unfeasible.

The unpredictable, logistically trecharous Hudson River crossing is a daily fact of life for many New Jersey residents. Equally frustrating to rich and poor alike, it is an especially conspicuous weakpoint in many otherwise cushy elite suburban lives.