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Ove Arup and Partners, New York, NY and Nikolas K. Sokol, P.G. The City Reliquary Museum, Brooklyn, NY Ove Arup and Partners, New York, NY “By courage, skill and patience this tunnel is to-day un fait accompli, and Ravenswood is one with New York” – Charles M. Jacobs, Chief Engineer, East River Gas Tunnel, 1894 Introduction Prior to 1883, ferries provided the only access to Manhattan Island. The opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in that year resulted in a dramatic increase in horse-drawn and railway traffic to an already densely-populated lower Manhattan, and it soon became clear that a vast and reliable network of rapid transit and utilities would be required to maintain New York as a livable city, capable of sustained growth. With surface space already greatly limited, New York City sensibly chose the underground option for infrastructure expansion. After four years of construction, the opening of the first New York City Subway line in 1904 was the most notable event in the development of rapid transit in the metropolitan New York area. However, the quest to build railways underground in New York actually pre-dates the Brooklyn Bridge, with efforts to link Manhattan Island to New Jersey via a subaqueous tunnel under the Hudson River dating back to 1874. The steep learning curve of subaqueous tunneling had begun, but it was not until twenty years later that in 1894 the oft forgotten East River Gas Tunnel became the first subaqueous connection into Manhattan (Jacobs, 1894). Today New York City hosts perhaps the greatest collection of subaqueous tunnels in the world; 41 have been advanced into Manhattan through the sediment which underlay the Hudson, East and Harlem Rivers (Bickel et al, 1995). The intent of this paper is to introduce the reader to the engineering and technical aspects associated with some of these historical subaqueous tunneling achievements in New York City. First, a summary of the key technical advances in subaqueous tunneling, namely the tunneling shield and the concept of compressed air, is provided. A series of early case histories of such tunneling for railways in the New York area are discussed. Finally, links between methods used during the early days of tunneling in New York to those used in the present day will be explored. 1. Key Technical Advances in Early Subaqueous Tunneling 1.1 Tunneling Shield Early tunnel projects were in many ways experimental engineering projects, often resulting in scores of casualties. The advent of the tunneling shield was perhaps the most significant technological advance in the long history of tunneling. A tunneling shield is a temporary protective ground support structure used in the excavation of tunnels through soil that is too soft
or fluid to remain stable during the time it takes to line the tunnel with a permanent support ring of brick masonry, concrete, cast iron, or steel. Sir Marc Isambard Brunel developed the first successful tunneling shield in the United Kingdom and in 1818 patented it with Thomas Cochrane. Brunel and his son Isambard Kingdom Brunel used it to excavate the first modern-day subaqueous tunnel under the River Thames between Wapping and Rotherhithe in the City of London. Construction of the Thames Tunnel commenced in 1825, and was finally completed in 1843 after a series of technical and financial setbacks. To permit workers to manually excavate the soil in front of the shield, Brunel's tunneling shield was characterized by a rectangular crosssection, and had three platform levels, as shown in Figure 1. As the excavation progressed, the tunnel was lined with a ring of brick masonry behind the shield. The shield was advanced forward incrementally with the aid of manual jacks which reacted against the completed masonry lining situated behind the shield. Originally intended to serve pedestrian traffic, the Thames Tunnel was later converted to carry railway traffic and is now part of the East London Line of the London Underground.
Figure 1. Construction of the Thames Tunnel in London Using Brunel’s Shield (Illustrated London News, date unknown; Digitized by www.wikipedia.org)
Brunel's original tunnel shield design was significantly improved by the work of Peter W. Barlow and James Henry Greathead in the course of the construction of the Tower Subway under the River Thames in the City of London, which started in 1869. The most critical innovation of the Barlow-Greathead shield design was that it had a circular cross-section, which simplified the construction of the permanent lining, and was better able to support the weight of the surrounding soil by taking advantage of the structural strength of an arch. Also, the selfweight of the shield was significantly less than Brunel's, making it much easier to drive forward.
The Barlow-Greathead Shield consisted of a wrought iron sleeve with the same diameter, 7 feet 3 inches, as the tunnel. As the excavation progressed, it was driven ahead by hand-operated screw jacks to act both as a ring-shaped cutter and protection for the workmen. It was 4 feet 9 inches long, 0.5 inches thick, and weighed approximately 2 tons. The shield was constructed with a slight taper at the front to reduce the friction of the surrounding clay, and the front of the cylinder was stiffened by a cast-iron ring bolted to it; behind which was a diaphragm, or bulkhead, with a hatchway through which the workers could pass to the tunnel face. Figure 2 shows a lithograph of the Tower Subway construction with a Barlow-Greathead Shield. The Tower Subway opened in 1870, and was later converted to serve as a multi-purpose utility conduit. It still serves this capacity today. After the completion of the Tower Subway, James Henry Greathead served as chief engineer for the design and construction of the City & South London Railway under the River Thames between Stockwell and King William Street Stations. This section of railway, which opened to the public in 1890, is now part of the London Underground's Northern Line and has the distinction of being the world's first deep-level tube railway. Figure 3 shows the construction of the British Museum Station (now abandoned) on the Central Line of the London Underground with a Barlow-Greathead Shield (circa 1898).
Figure 2. Construction of the Tower Subway Using a Barlow-Greathead Shield (London Transport Museum)
Figure 3. Construction of the British Museum Station on the Central Line Using a Barlow-Greathead Shield (London Transport Museum)
1.2 Compressed Air Where the tunneling shield simply prevented the ground around the tunnel from collapsing in on the workers, the creation of a compressed-air working environment was an attempt to get the ground to stand up on its own. The principle of compressed-air tunneling (sometimes called the “plenum process”) is to balance ground water pressure in permeable soils (gravels, sands, and silts) by pressurizing the tunnel workings. This effectively provides dry tunneling conditions and allows predominantly granular materials to be excavated when they would otherwise collapse or flow. Swiss engineer Jean Daniel Colladon first suggested the use of compressed-air in tunneling to Sir Marc Isambard Brunel during the construction of the first tunnel under the River Thames in 1829. The tunneling component of the project had most likely been in progress for about a year and little is known about Brunel's reaction to this idea, except that he did not adopt it. In 1830, Lord Thomas Cochrane took out the first patent to use compressed-air for the exclusion of water in tunneling and shaft works. The patent rights for the air-lock arrangement were first used for the sinking of a cast-iron lined shaft in 1839 for a coal mine at Challons, France. The first use of compressed air in the United Kingdom was for the sinking of vertical caissons for the abutments of the Rochester Bridge in 1851. Many years passed before the first tunneling use of compressed air occurred in 1879 at the Kattendyk Tunnel in Antwerp, Belgium (Caiden, D., 2009). Later that same year, compressed air was also used to restart tunneling in a troubled railroad tunnel under the Hudson River from New Jersey to New York (described later). It should also be noted that
compressed air was used to construct the East River caisson foundations which support the piers of the Brooklyn Bridge. The use of compressed air on underground projects comes with numerous hassles and safety concerns, and for these reasons it is generally avoided whenever possible during modern day construction. The disadvantage of working in hyperbaric conditions is that significant health hazards exist when the pressure exceeds about 14 psi, or 1 atmosphere, above normal. Decompression Sickness (a.k.a. “the Bends” or Caisson Disease) results from the precipitation of dissolved gasses into bubbles inside the body upon depressurization (Vann, 1989). This unique and painful disease was unfortunately not well understood during the early days of tunnel construction – a lack of understanding which resulted in a sobering number of tunneling fatalities. Advances in tunnel boring machine technology today greatly limited the circumstances requiring work in hyperbaric conditions. Today there are strict guidelines governing compressed air works, however there have not always been. The recommendations listed in the following excerpt from Chief Engineer Charles M. Jacobs’ 1894 General Report on the East River Gas Tunnel were the only guidelines workers had available to follow as they subjected themselves to a compressed air environment as high as 48 pounds per square inch, the highest known for any tunnel project in NYC:
Chief Engineer Jacobs’ lauded the East River Gas Company for limiting the number of deaths on the project to only four men (Jacobs, 1894).
2. Early Case Studies of Subaqueous Tunneling in New York City (1874 – 1920) 2.1 Hudson Tubes (PATH) - Compressed Air, aided (eventually) by the Tunneling Shield The modern-day Port Authority and Trans-Hudson (PATH) commuter railway line linking Manhattan and New Jersey consists of two pairs of single track tunnels under the Hudson River. The construction of these tunnels dates back more than a century, to the pre-PATH entities of the New York and New Jersey Tunnel Company, which constructed the uptown pair of tunnels from Midtown Manhattan to Hoboken Terminal, and the Hudson and Manhattan Railway, which constructed the downtown pair of tunnels connecting the Hudson Terminal in lower Manhattan (later replaced by the PATH Terminal at the World Trade Center Complex) to Exchange Place in New Jersey. Construction of the first trans-Hudson tunnel (the northernmost, New-Jersey-bound, tunnel of the uptown pair) originally started in November of 1874 under the technical direction of DeWitt Haskins, the chief engineer. The early construction work for this tunnel is described in detail by Burr (1885), and the summary provided here is drawn from his account. Work first commenced on the New Jersey side by sinking a vertical brick-lined shaft 83 feet behind a bulkhead wall. This shaft was of circular cross-section, having an inner diameter of 30 feet and an outer diameter of 38 feet. The bottom of the shaft was sunk to a depth of 54 feet below the mean high water level. Upon each of the east and west sides was built a false piece, 26 feet in width and 24 feet in height, having an elliptical shape, which was eventually removed to permit the construction of the tunnel through the vertical shaft. At the east (river) side of the shaft, an opening above the false piece was constructed to receive an air-lock. The lock was 6 feet in diameter and 15 feet in length, and had a door at each end to permit workers to enter and exit. Once the air lock was installed, the initial entrance to the main tunneling chamber was constructed. This chamber consisted of a series of 11 rings, formed of plates 2 feet wide. The diameter of each ring was 18 inches larger than the one preceding it, with the final ring having a diameter of 20 feet. As the top of each ring was aligned horizontally, the bottoms formed steps leading from the air lock downward to the tunneling chamber, as shown schematically in Figure 4. From the base of this chamber, the horizontal drive for two tunnels were started, as it had been decided to construct two parallel single-track tunnels rather than a larger single dual-track tunnel.
Figure 4. Section and Plan Views of New Jersey Shaft, Air Lock, and Tunneling Chamber of the Hudson River Tunnel (Burr, 1885; Digitized by Terence M. Kennedy, www.tmk.com)
The initial tunneling method consisted of using compressed air to expel the river water and to hold a temporary iron plate lining in place until a 2.5 foot thick permanent brick lining could be constructed. Haskins believed that the Hudson River silt was strong enough to maintain the tunnel's structural form without the aid of a tunneling shield – a belief which had fatal consequences. Plate-by-plate, workers erected an iron ring (shell) equal to the exterior size of the tunnel. The interior portion of this ring was lined brickwork. The Hudson River silt was removed, starting from the top and working downward, until the top center plate of a new ring could be put into place and bolted to the one behind. Then a plate was inserted at each side and bolted to the center plate and to the ring already in place, and braced diagonally against the iron plates and masonry lining already installed. When four complete rings of plates had been put in place, the heading was cleaned out and the next segment of masonry lining was constructed from the bottom upward. The tunnel was advanced forward in 10 foot increments, and had interior dimensions of 16 feet width and 18 feet height. The plate segments were comprised of 1/4-inch thick boiler iron, each 2.5 feet in width and 3.5 feet in length, flanged with angle iron on all four sides. The heading, which was entirely exposed, was advanced by manual shoveling. All of this work was performed under compressed air, with a gauge pressure set approximately equal to the hydrostatic water pressure of the Hudson River. The compressed air pressure started at 18 psi (gauge) and was to increase to an anticipated maximum value of 36 psi at a distance of 1,800 feet from the vertical shaft on the New Jersey side. The fact that a tunneling shield was not used during the early construction work for the Hudson River tunnel made it rather difficult to maintain the integrity of the compressed air inside the working chamber. The compressed air was sometimes over pressurized, leading to a loss of air through the tunnel face, called a ‘blowout’, which further contributed to unstable ground conditions. The lack of a tunneling shield also compromised the safety of the workers. These conditions led to a serious face collapse and subsequent catastrophic flooding of the tunnel in 1880 which resulted in the drowning deaths of 20 workers. Construction on the tunnel continued for approximately two more years after this tragic event. The construction technique was modified by introducing a small diameter “pilot” tunnel which was aligned with the main tunnel center line and advanced ahead of the iron ring and masonry construction previously described. The work was advanced much in the same way as before, except that the iron segments were braced against the pilot tunnel, as shown in Figure 5 and Figure 6. While this modification represented a nominal improvement to the method used prior to the 1880 tragedy, it was still a far cry from the safety provided by a tunneling shield. Haskins managed to build the northern (New Jersey bound) tunnel out by approximately 1,200 feet from the New Jersey shoreline when in 1882 financial difficulties essentially brought the project to a halt.
Figure 5. Pilot Tunneling Technique for the Hudson River Tunnel (Burr, 1885; Digitized by Terence M. Kennedy, www.tmk.com)
Figure 6. Pilot Tunneling Technique for the Hudson River Tunnel (Scientific American, June 4, 1881; Digitized by Joseph Brennan, www.columbia.edu/~brennan/beach/) In 1888, work resumed on the project when the firm of S. Pearson & Son of England assumed the construction contract, with Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker, who had just finished the Forth Railway Bridge in Scotland, taken on as consulting engineers. The two key technical changes included the use of a tunneling shield (Barlow-Greathead type) in conjunction with compressed air, and use of a segmental cast-iron circular lining in lieu of brick masonry. Shortly thereafter, once again financial difficulties resulted in yet another halt in the tunneling work. Under the visionary guidance of railroad magnate William Gibbs McAdoo, the New York and Jersey Tunnel Company resumed construction of the uptown tunnels in 1902. It carried forth the
improved construction methods adopted by Sirs Fowler and Baker, and the remainder of the northern uptown tunnel, the entire southern tunnel of the uptown pair, as well as the two downtown tunnels (constructed under the direction of the Hudson and Manhattan Railway Company), were all successfully constructed using segmental cast-iron lining with tunneling shields under compressed air. A section of tunnel prior to the installation of the railway tracks is shown in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Photograph of Shield-Driven Hudson Tube (Hudson and Manhattan Railroad, 1909; Digitized by Terence M. Kennedy, www.tmk.com)
The uptown tubes which served Midtown Manhattan entered into service in February 1908, and the downtown tubes serving Lower Manhattan opened in July 1909. With the exception of an approximately 2 year closure to the downtown tubes due to flooding and catastrophic damage to the World Trade Center station caused by the events of September 11, 2001, these railway tunnels have been in continuous service for 100 years. The final vestige of the Hudson and Manhattan’s terminal building located at the World Trade Center was demolished in 2008 as a part of the World Trade Center PATH station reconstruction efforts. 2.2 149th Street Subway Tunnel - Caisson Method with Compressed Air The 149th Street Subway Tunnel, which carries the Number 2 Line under the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx, was opened in 1905 as a northern extension to New York City's first subway line. The construction of this tunnel is described in great detail by the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT, 1904) and a synopsis of this work is provided here.
The bed of the Harlem River at the point of this tunnel crossing consists of mud, silt, and sand, much of which was so loose and fluid that it was removed by means of jetting and pumping. The maximum depth of excavation was approximately 50 feet. Instead of using the more conventional tunneling shield with compressed air method, a more rapid construction scheme was developed. This two-track tunnel was constructed under compressed air using the "caisson" method employing techniques refined 20 years earlier during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The U.S. War Department required a minimum depth of 20 feet in the river at low tide, which fixed the elevation of the roof of the submerged part of the tunnel. This part of the tunnel, 641 feet long, consists of twin single-track cast-iron cylinders 16 feet in diameter encased in a large mass of concrete, with the interior also lined with concrete. The approach on either side is a double-track concrete arched structure. The total length of the tunnel section is 1,500 feet. A longitudinal cross section of this tunnel is provided in Figure 8.
Figure 8. Cross Section of the 149th Street Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (IRT, 1904; Digitized by www.gutenberg.org) The river crossing was constructed in two sections. The western section was the first to be built, as the U.S. War Department prohibited the closing of more than half of the river width at one time. A trench was dredged over the line of the tunnel about 50 feet wide and 39 feet below the low water line. This depth was about 10 feet above the sub-grade of the tunnel. Three rows of piles were next driven on each side of the trench from the west bank to the middle of the river and on them working platforms were built, forming two wharves 38 feet apart. Piles were then driven over the area to be covered by the subway, 6 feet 4 inches apart laterally and 8 feet longitudinally. They were cut off about 11 feet above the center line of each tube and capped with timbers 12 inches square. A transverse cross section of the construction condition at this stage is provided in Figure 9. The trusses were spaced so as to come between each transverse row of piles and were connected by eight longitudinal stringers, two at the top and two at the bottom on each side. The four at each side were just far enough apart to allow special tongue-and-grooved sheet piling to be driven between them. This sheathing was driven to a depth of 10 to 15 feet below the bottom of the finished tunnel. A well-caulked and waterproofed roof comprised of three layers of 12-inch square timbers, each separated by 2-inch thick plank, was floated over the piles and sunk. This roof had three timber shafts, each 7 feet wide and 17 feet long in plan. Once the timber roof was in place and covered with earth, it formed the top of an airtight caisson which was completed by driving sheet piling on the sides and ends after the roof was in place. A transverse cross section of this construction
condition at this stage is provided in Figure 10. The excavation within and below this caisson was made under compressed air, with most of the material being ejected by water jets and the remainder removed through the airlocks in the shafts. Once the excavation was completed, the piles were temporarily braced and the concrete and cast-iron lining was installed. The piles were cut off incrementally as the concrete slab was being poured. The second (eastern) section of the tunnel was progressed using a modified version of the caisson method previously described. Rather than using a temporary timber roof, the upper half of the permanent cast-iron and concrete tunnel segment was used as the top of the caisson. The trench was dredged nearly to subgrade and its sides provided with wharves as before, running out to the completed half of the work. The permanent foundation piles were then driven and a timber frame sunk over them to serve as a guide for the 12-inch sheet piling around the site. Steel pilot piles with water jets were driven in advance of the wood-sheet piles, and if they struck any boulders the latter were drilled and blasted. The steel piles were withdrawn, and wooden piles were driven in their place. When the piling was finished, a pontoon 35 feet wide, 106 feet long, and 12 feet deep was built between the wharves, and upon a separate platform or deck on it the upper half of the cast-iron shells were assembled (as shown in Figure 11), their ends closed by steel-plate diaphragms and the whole covered with concrete. The pontoon was then submerged several feet, parted at its center, and each half drawn out endwise from beneath the floating top of the tunnel. The latter was then loaded and carefully sunk into place (Figures 12 and 13), the connection with the shore section being made by a diver, who entered the roof through a special opening. When it was finally in place, men entered through the shore section and cut away the wood bottom, thus completing the caisson so that work could proceed below it as before. Three of these caissons were required to complete the east end of the crossing. A transverse cross section showing the final stage of tunneling work for this eastern portion is provided in Figure 14. A schematic cross section of the twin-tube tunnel is provided in Figure 15, and a photograph showing the interior of one of the tubes is provided in Figure 16.
Figure 9. Initial Construction Stage of the 149th Street Tunnel Showing Excavation, Working Platforms, Sheeting, and Support Piles (Engineering News, 1904)
Figure 10. Construction Configuration for the Western Portion of the 149th Street Tunnel (Engineering News, 1904)
Figure 11. Construction of Upper Half of Tunnel Shells for the 149th Street Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (IRT, 1904; Digitized by www.gutenberg.org)
Figure 12. Construction Configuration of the Eastern Portion of the 149th Street Tunnel, (Engineering News, 1904)
Figure 13. Detail of the Upper Half of the 149th Street Tunnel – Eastern Portion (Engineer News, 1904)
Figure 14. Final Construction Stage of the 149th Street Tunnel After Backfilling and Concreting (Engineering News, 1904)
Figure 15. Transverse Cross Section of the Twin-Tube 149th Street Subway Tunnel (Engineering Record, 1903)
Figure 16. Interior Photograph of the 149th Street Subway Tunnel (Engineering News, 1904)
2.3 Battery-Joralemon Street Tunnel – Tunneling Shield with Compressed Air The Battery-Joralemon Street Tunnel connecting lower Manhattan to Brooklyn was the first rail tunnel to open under the East River. Construction of the tunnel, which consists of two separate single-track tunnel drives, now carries subway lines 4 and 5. Construction started in 1903, and the tunnel opened in January of 1908. On the basis of lessons learned during the early tunneling attempts under the Hudson River, the segments of this tunnel which were constructed through soft ground were advanced using a tunneling shield (Barlow-Greathead type) with compressed air. Unlike the early rail tunnels under the Hudson River, which were advanced nearly entirely in soft ground, the Battery-Joralemon Street Tunnel encountered extensive mixed-face tunneling conditions requiring the simultaneous excavation of sediment and rock. The technical challenges of tunneling are conversely proportional to the heterogeneity of the material that is being excavated, a difficult lesson learned on this project while tunneling out of rock on the Manhattan side into the fine sand and clay of the East River’s deep, central channel, and eventually into bouldery-sand of the Brooklyn side. The varying ground conditions are demonstrated by the longitudinal cross section of the tunnel shown in Figure 17. The irregular ground conditions led to a spectacular event “unparalleled in the records of submarine engineering accidents”. On March 27th, 1905, the over-pressurized air opened a 4-ft diameter hole in the tunnel face and blew a worker by the name of Richard Creedon through it and up through seventeen feet of river sediments and ten feet of East River water “like a pea through a putty blower” (Staff, 1905). Amazingly he lived to speak firsthand about the event, whereas several other workers that experienced similar blowouts of this magnitude suffered far less favorable fates.
Figure 17. Longitudinal Cross Section of the Southern (Brooklyn-bound) Battery-Joralemon Street Subway Tunnel (Engineering News, 1907) Major reconstruction works on the Battery-Joralemon street Tunnel were performed prior to entering service. The boulders encountered on the Brooklyn side of the tunnel made it difficult for the tunneling shields to maintain correct alignment. In addition, ovalization of the tunnel segments during construction resulted in vertical clearance problems which required corrective action. As a result, significant portions of the tunnels on the Brooklyn side required
reconstruction, as shown in Figure 18. The primary (and relatively easier) method of resolving these clearance problems was to lower the tunnel invert by removing the lower cast iron tunnel segments and replacing them with a reinforced concrete invert. In some locations, however, additional vertical clearance was provided by raising the roof of the tunnel, also shown in Figure 18. Ground freezing, a common but expensive modern-day technique used to deal with troublesome ground, was initially considered to perform this work but was eventually rejected. Instead, the upper tunnel segments were loosened and jacked radially upward and outward, and a new lining of brick and reinforced concrete was constructed.
Figure 18. Battery-Joralemon Street Subway Tunnel (Engineering Record, 1907)
In addition to the vertical clearance problems, questions were also raised regarding the vertical stability of the tunnel segments installed in soft ground near the interface with the rock. The calculated tunnel weight of 11,000 lbs per lineal ft, along with a superimposed train loading of 2,000 lbs per lineal ft, resulted in a total maximum downward vertical load of 13,000 lbs per lineal ft. This load was offset by an upward buoyant force of 14,000 lbs per lineal ft, which was derived by the weight of water displaced by the tunnel. On the basis of these calculations, it was the position of Chief Engineer George Rice that the tunnels were vertically stable. However, the Interborough Rapid Transit Company, who held the contract to operate trains through the BatteryJoralemon Street Tunnel, was not convinced. As a result, the tunneling contractor decided to install pairs of 20-inch diameter vertical support piles from the bottom of the tunnel at 30 to 50-ft intervals along the tunnel alignment, as shown in Figure 19. Water jets and hydraulic jacks were used to install these support piles in 5-ft long segments, with the deepest pile extending 76-ft below the tunnel invert. The extent of use of these support piles is shown in the longitudinal tunnel cross section in Figure 17. It is believed that the Battery-Joralemon Street Subway Tunnel is the only tunnel in the world which used support piles installed from the bottom of the tunnel on a regular basis. One such pile
was installed on an experimental basis for the Pennsylvania Railroad Tunnels under the East River, but this was not adopted on a production basis (Gasparini and Wang, 2006). For tunnels constructed entirely in soft soils, it is generally recognized that such piling is unnecessary. The structural concern of differential support stiffness characterized by mixed-face tunneling conditions is now alleviated by installing tunnel segments of increased flexibility both at and near the soil-rock interface.
Figure 19. Remedial Piles Installed from the Invert of the Battery-Joralemon Street Subway Tunnel (Engineering News, 1907) 2.4 Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel - Immersed Tube Construction The Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel, which now carries the 4, 5, and 6 Lines under the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx, employed a distinct, top-down construction
technique. This four-track tunnel (Figure 20), opened in 1918, was built using the immersed tube method. This method had also been used to construct a number of early segments of the Paris Metro under the River Seine, as well as the Detroit River Railway Tunnel which opened in 1910 and connected Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel was the first of two tunnels in New York City to be constructed using the immersed tube method, the second being the double-stacked 63rd Street Tunnel under the East River, the top two tunnels of which have been used for F train service between Queens and Manhattan since 1989 and the bottom two tunnels reserved for future Long Island Railroad service to Grand Central Terminal. The construction of the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel is described in detail by Lavis (1914), and a synopsis of this work is provided here. In summary, immersed tube technology consists of constructing individual tunnel segments near land (Figures 21 and 22), with each end sealed with a bulkhead to obtain buoyancy. The segments are then floated into position (Figure 23) and sunk (Figures 24, 25, and 26) in a controlled manner into a trench dredged from the riverbed. The Lexington Avenue Tunnel was divided into five sections, four of 220 foot length each and one of 200 foot length, for a total length of 1,020 feet. Once the segments were sunk, concrete was then deposited around the outside by means of tremies, the sections were dewatered and the inner concrete lining was constructed. This method of construction eliminated the need to work under compressed air, although divers were used to a limited extent to seal the joints between the immersed tube segments. The tubes were sunk by opening 12-in valves positioned at the bottom of the bulkheads in the two outside tubes, allowing these to gradually fill with water. The rate of sinking once the tubes were half full of water was controlled by opening and closing air valves at the top of the tubes. Therefore, the tendency of either end or corner becoming misaligned or out of level was easily controlled. As the tubes became completely filled, the flotation was carried by four cylinders on top, which were in turn gradually partially filled. The limited excess weight was taken by derrick boats moored on either side of the tunnel segments during the sinking. This method of tunnel segment positioning is shown in Figure 27. The butt-jointed tunnel segments were bolted on the exterior of the tunnel by divers, and the inner joints were riveted into place once the tubes were dewatered. After the interior rivets had been placed, the space between the joint in the outer shell and the inner plate was filled with grout. The dewatering of the tunnels proved these joints to be remarkably watertight. A transverse cross sections of the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel is provided in Figure 28 and a photograph of the interior of one of the four tubes is shown in Figure 29.
Figure 20. Transverse Cross Section of an Immersed Tube Segment for the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 21. Initial Construction Stage of an Immersed Tube Segment for the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 22. Progressed Construction Stage of an Immersed Tube Segment for the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 23. A Floating Immersed Tube Segment Being Towed to the Harlem River Site (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 24. Transverse Cross Section of Immersed Tube Segment Sinking Operation on the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 25. Plan View of Immersed Tube Segment Sinking Operation on the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 26. Initial Sinking of an Immersed Tube Tunnel Segment in the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 27. Progressed Sinking of an Immersed Tunnel Segment in the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 28. Transverse Cross-Section of Half of the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
Figure 29. Interior Photograph of Completed Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River (Lavis, 1914)
2.5 Dual Contract East River Subway Tunnels – Tunneling Shield and Compressed Air (and notable technological advancements) During the “Dual Contracts” era of subway construction in New York City, there were two pairs of subway tunnels constructed under the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, namely the Old Slip-Clark Street Tunnel (opened 1919) and the Whitehall-Montague Street Tunnel (opened 1920), which contributed greatly to the advancement of shield-driven tunnel technology. The chief engineer for these tunnels was Clifford M. Holland, who had worked briefly on the Battery-Joralemon Street Subway Tunnel and would contribute greatly to the design of the Holland Tunnel, the first vehicular tunnel under the Hudson River, which bears his name in remembrance to his untimely (some say stress-induced) death the day before the two halves of the tunnel were scheduled to be connected (Staff, 1924). Three key advances were introduced during the construction of these East River tunnels. The first is the introduction of cement grouting to provide a watertight seal for vertical shaft construction. A schematic of a vertical shaft for these tunnels is shown in Figure 30. Grouting was used to provide a watertight seal at the bottom of the steel shaft at the interface with the underlying rock. The general procedure is shown in Figure 31. Hollow steel pipes were driven 10 feet horizontally into the surrounding sand from inside the caisson. The pipes were gradually withdrawn as the grout was injected into the sand under pressure. This advancement greatly improved the construction of vertical access shafts which are used to initiate the horizontal tunnel drives, and provided a greater degree of safety. The second advancement was the use of sand tamping behind the tail of the tunneling shield to fill in the gap between the cast iron tunnel segments and the surrounding soil cut by the shield. A detailed schematic of this operation is provided in Figure 32. Sand was injected under air pressure through the tail of the shield to fill in this gap, resulting in reduced surface settlement at the ground surface, as well as a lesser degree of building damage. The third advancement was the placement of a clay blanket on the riverbed, as shown in Figure 33, prior to driving the tunnels underneath. The blanket provided a hydraulic barrier on top of the tunnel which forced a longer water flow path from the river to the tunnel, resulting in a significant reduction of inflow and a substantial increase in face stability. Tunneling shields and compressed air were still required to drive these tunnels, but the presence of the clay blanket reduced the magnitude of air pressure required for stability, and provided a greater degree of flexibility and generally more reasonable working conditions.
Figure 30. Caisson Installation for Dual Contract Subway Tunnels under the East River (Scientific American, 1915)
Figure 31. Method of Grouting the Sand outside of the Caisson (Scientific American, 1915)
Figure 32. Sand Tamping behind Tail of Tunneling Shield (Scientific American, 1915)
Figure 33. Schematic of Clay Blanket Construction on the bed of the East River (Scientific American, 1915) Technology Carried Forth The key technological advancements discussed in the above case studies remain relevant today because they were developed to address the root causes of what makes subaqueous tunneling so challenging. While not usually used today in the forms specifically described above, modern analogues are plentiful, typically manifest as features on highly specialized tunnel boring machines (TBM). As previously mentioned, advancements in TBM technology have greatly limited the circumstances which require workers to be subjected to compressed air. Specifically, sealed chambers at the front of closed-face TBMs allow for the balancing of earth and water pressure with a combination of compressed air, slurry or conditioned soil exclusively within the portion of the TBM which is actively excavating the ground. The excavated ground, or muck, is carried from the pressurized portion to the free air via a system of slurry pipes or a screw conveyor that is constantly filled with conditioned muck in order to maintain a pressure plug. All other portions of the TBM, including all which have regular occupancy by workers, remain at atmospheric conditions. The above advancements in TBM technology constitutes a radical change in how and where modern tunneling can be performed compared to the early days of tunneling in New York City. That said, while soft ground excavation has become increasingly mechanized and automated, the tunnel shield behind the rotating cutter face of a TBM is essentially much the same as it has always been. Other historic practices which have a clear modern analogue include the former practice of depositing clay blankets on the river bed over the future tunnel alignment and sand tamping behind the tunnel liner. The use of clay blankets has been replaced by grouting through boreholes drilled either from the surface or through the face of the TBM to form a canopy of improved ground through which the tunnel will be excavated. Similarly, sand tamping has been replaced with grouting of the annular space between the ground and the tail shield of a TBM. Additionally, it is common to inject grout through the liner once it has been installed by the TBM. All of these practices are performed to limit the amount of ground settlement experienced over the tunnel alignment and have allowed for tunnels to be advanced under heavily urbanized areas with remarkably shallow ground cover.
Summary A review of early subaqueous tunneling in New York City has been provided in the context of two key technical advances: the tunneling shield and the use of compressed air. These technologies, first employed in Europe, London in particular, were soon thereafter brought to the United States and used extensively in New York City. For the case histories discussed in this paper, compressed air was used in all instances with one exception: the Lexington Avenue Subway Tunnel under the Harlem River was constructed using the immersed tube method. The tunneling shield was also used in most instances, with the exception of the early and arguably unsuccessful work on the Hudson Tubes as well as the Lexington Avenue and 149th Street subway tunnels under the Harlem River. It should be noted that tunnels, or portions thereof, excavated entirely in rock, were generally done so in a free air environment without the use of a tunnel shield. Over time, key technical advancements developed in New York City made subaqueous shield tunneling with compressed air markedly safer. These include the use of a clay blanket on the river bottom to control water flow, shaft grouting, and sand tamping behind the tunneling shield. In recent decades, the circumstances which necessitate working in compressed air have become increasingly limited. Improvements made to the fundamental tunneling technologies described here have recently rapidly advanced, in particular with the advent of versatile, closed-face tunnel boring machines capable of excavating and installing stable, watertight tunnel liners in virtually any ground type or condition. While the most recent subaqueous transportation tunnel to be built in New York City is approaching 40 years old, the Trans Hudson Express tunnels are currently being designed and will bring two new tunnels from New Jersey into Manhattan under the Hudson River. Their eventual excavation and construction, while benefitting from modern advances in tunneling technology, will nevertheless rely on essential concepts developed a century ago. Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank David Caiden, a Principal of Ove Arup and Partners in New York, for information on the historical development of compressed air as applied to subaqueous construction. In addition, we would like to thank Dr. Judith Wang of the Colorado School of Mines for providing several early technical papers associated with subaqueous tunneling in New York. Lastly, we would like to thank Dr. Marienka Sokol for her insightful editorial comments. References Bickel, J., Kuesel, T. and King, E. (1995) The Tunnel Engineering Handbook, Chapman and Hall, New York, 544 p. Burr, S.D.V. (1885) Tunneling Under the Hudson River, John Wiley and Sons, New York. (Digitized by Terence M Kennedy; www.tmk.com) Burr, S.D.V. (1906) Rapid Transit in New York and Other Great Cities, Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York. (Digitized by www.nycsubway.org) Caiden, D. (2009), The History of Compressed Air Tunneling. Personal Communication.
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