The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced today that New York City’s Lincoln Tunnel will be converted into cross-country ski tunnels, expected to open on April 1, 2015.
Port Authority Director David Samson explained a press conference that the tunnels’ ongoing woes have prompted transportation officials to rethink the importance of driving in and out of the city by vehicle. The Lincoln Tunnel stretches for 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) beneath the Hudson River to connect Midtown Manhattan to New Jersey.
“The tunnels have had their share of emergency repairs, and it’s evident, something needs to be done,” Samson said. “People are fed up, and frankly, with all the problems vehicles create in the first place — from road rage to depression to obesity — the Port Authority’s feeling is, let’s get skiers in there.”
The initiative has to be OKed by both the municipalities of Weehawken, N.J., and New York City, but the latter should be easy enough to convince. New York’s been known for trending toward healthier lifestyles with former Mayor Michael Bloomberg banning cigarettes in bars, trans fats from restaurants, and requiring fast-food chains to post calorie counts. The final piece is exercise, and an influx of fit skiers from all over the world is expected to boost tourism, as well as spirits.
“With three 2.4-kilometer-long tunnels under the Hudson River, the new ski tunnel will be the biggest ski tunnel in the world,” Samson explained. “We expect skiers from all over the country to come to New York not only to train, but also to shop.”
One tunnel will be dedicated to classic skiing; one tunnel will be freestyle. The third will have a biathlon range on the New York side of the river.
According to Samson, a skiing enthusiast by the name of Nat Herz submitted a proposal for ski tunnels before moving to Alaska in 2013.
“After getting bored roller skiing a thousand laps around Central Park, Mr. Herz submitted a detailed proposal to the Port Authority to convert the Holland Tunnel to ski use,” Samson said. “We chose the Lincoln Tunnel because it is in need for a redesign, and its original designer was Norwegian-born engineer Ole Singstad [who also designed the ventilation system for the Holland Tunnel].”
The stalled Xanadu Mall project in Secaucus, N.J., with an indoor ski slope, will be the snowmaking venue for the tunnels. Only seven miles from the Hudson River, it should be easy to haul snow to the Lincoln Tunnel, Samson said. The International Ski Federation (FIS) has already entered negotiations to hold a point-to-point sprint race in the tunnels, finishing atop the helix in Union City.
Samson announced his immediate resignation from the Port Authority three days ago, but his “pet project” could put him back on top of the totem pole. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie asked him to stay and believes Samson did not play a significant role in the George Washington Bridge scandal last September.
“It’s time for new beginnings, and I think putting the focus on skiers is the perfect way to ease the tension and start anew,” Samson said. “This is public-works project will generate jobs and spurn creativity, and maybe shift the international perception of what New York life is all about.”