When a Road Opened Under the Hudson

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LATE one November evening in 1927, the cars trying to get into the Holland Tunnel were pressed up against the eastbound entrance — a vehicular scrum, moving nowhere — when their drivers began to communicate in what has since become the customary language of that dense, acrid patch of Jersey City. They began to honk their horns.

What moved them to honk then, though, was not what moves drivers to honk now. It wasn’t the other side of the tunnel they were impatient to reach, but the inside of the tunnel itself. A miraculous thing was about to happen — the opening of a road beneath the Hudson River — and their honking was a chorus of excitement.

“It’s clear a lot of people absolutely hate the Holland Tunnel now, but at the time it opened they thought it was wonderful,” said Robert W. Jackson, author of a recently published history of it, “Highway Under the Hudson,” which recounts that evening in 1927. “They were enchanted by the whole idea that you could actually drive under water.”...

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