Queens Midtown Tunnel Opened 75 Years Ago Today

On November 15, 1940, the Queens Midtown Tunnel opened to the public for the first time with an inaugural ride by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a convertible.

Since then, it's been used for more than one billion trips between Manhattan and Queens, and has held up remarkably well for its age—the first time it needed extensive repairs was in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy swept through the city and dumped tons of water in the tunnel.

Our friends at Curbed recently pulled together this collection of vintage photographs of the Queens Midtown Tunnel from the MTA archives.

A view of Long Island City in 1940, with the tunnel in the middle of the image, and the Manhattan skyline in the background.
A view of Long Island City in 1940, with the tunnel in the middle of the image, and the Manhattan skyline in the background.
Photo: MTA
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first person to take a ride through the Queens Midtown Tunnel two weeks before it opened to the public in 1940.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the first person to take a ride through the Queens Midtown Tunnel two weeks before it opened to the public in 1940.
Photo: MTA
Located on Borden Avenue in Long Island City, the ventilation building that services the tunnel was completed in 1940.
Located on Borden Avenue in Long Island City, the ventilation building that services the tunnel was completed in 1940.
Photo: MTA
Part of the tunnel pre-excavation; the circle shows the chunk of rock that needed to be removed by explosives.
Part of the tunnel pre-excavation; the circle shows the chunk of rock that needed to be removed by explosives.
Photo: MTA
Sandhogs who worked on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel ran the risk of getting the bends from working for long hours below ground, and so had to sit in special decompression chambers following their shifts.
Sandhogs who worked on the Queens-Midtown Tunnel ran the risk of getting the bends from working for long hours below ground, and so had to sit in special decompression chambers following their shifts.
Photo: MTA
In 1939, NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia pulled the switch that blasted the last bits of rock that needed to be removed to complete the tunnel.
In 1939, NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia pulled the switch that blasted the last bits of rock that needed to be removed to complete the tunnel.
Photo: MTA
This photo from 1940 shows off a mostly-finished tunnel.
This photo from 1940 shows off a mostly-finished tunnel.
Photo: MTA
These 12 women were groundbreakers: They were the first women to work as toll-takers in the Queens-Midtown tunnel, hired in 1943.
These 12 women were groundbreakers: They were the first women to work as toll-takers in the Queens-Midtown tunnel, hired in 1943.
Photo: MTA
Alas, after World War 2 ended, women were taken off their shifts at the tunnel, and wouldn't become toll-takers again until 1979.
Alas, after World War 2 ended, women were taken off their shifts at the tunnel, and wouldn't become toll-takers again until 1979.
Photo: MTA
Photo: MTA
The brand-new Manhattan entrance to the tunnel in 1940.
The brand-new Manhattan entrance to the tunnel in 1940.
Photo: MTA
When the tunnel first opened, the ground was made of brick. It's since been replaced with asphalt.
When the tunnel first opened, the ground was made of brick. It's since been replaced with asphalt.
Photo: MTA
More sandhogs during excavation.
More sandhogs during excavation.
Photo: MTA
Workers fight off the bends after a workday.
Workers fight off the bends after a workday.
Photo: MTA
Construction on the Queens side of the tunnel, as seen on Borden Avenue.
Construction on the Queens side of the tunnel, as seen on Borden Avenue.
Photo: MTA
Engineers and other folks involved in the project group for the project groundbreaking in 1936.
Engineers and other folks involved in the project group for the project groundbreaking in 1936.
Photo: MTA
Construction happening on the Manhattan side of the tunnel, underneath what was then the Second Avenue el.
Construction happening on the Manhattan side of the tunnel, underneath what was then the Second Avenue el.
Photo: MTA
Photo: MTA
The tube in 1938.
The tube in 1938.
Photo: MTA

via Curbed

Queens midtown tunnel 2x
Queens Midtown Tunnel

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