It’s been quite the week for anniversaries related to the old Penn Station.
On September 10, 1906, quite the engineering feat was accomplished when the first Hudson River tunnel was connected. Digging for two years from opposing shores, engineers met behind the tunnel shields midway beneath the Hudson. In a moment resulting from precise mathematical calculation and quite possibly luck – the final alignment was only off by 1/16 of an inch. The connected tunnel hosted reporters, engineers and executives two days later for a walk through. The second tunnel was completed two months later. When they finally opened to train traffic they were the longest underwater structure in the world. Engineers remained confounded by their constant shifting and oscillation. Tidal effects in the Hudson were finally identified as the cause.
These are the same tunnels that have consumed political conversations of the past few months. Politicians near and far have postured on a plan for the inevitable replacement and cost. In a nostalgic and romantic way, it’s nice to remember that math and little luck helped create an underwater structure that has faithfully served us for 109 years and probably more while political battles wage on.