New York tunnels upgrade complete

Upgrade work is complete for New York’s key tunnel links.
Maintenance / June 9, 2022 1 minute 10 seconds Read
By MJ Woof
Upgrade work is complete for New York’s important road tunnel links – image courtesy of © Photobulb |
The upgrade work for the Hugh L Carey and Queens Midtown Tunnels in New York has now been completed. The project has been carried out by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA), with engineering oversight from COWI and CHA Consulting in a joint venture.

The five design-build contracts for the project had a total value of US$123 million and involved installing advanced systems, boosting safety and reliability of the city’s transport network.

Together the Hugh L Carey (HLC) and Queens Midtown tunnels handle around 128,000 vehicles/day and are vital to commuters and visitors travelling into Manhattan. Both tunnels are over 70 years old, and the Hugh L Carey is the longest continuous underwater vehicular tunnel in North America.

Environmental events such as hurricane Sandy have had devastating effects on New York and its transport infrastructure, highlighting the need for advancement in design and technology. COWI and CHA were contracted to provide oversight and coordination of new ventilation and fire systems, including advanced smoke detection and communication systems in the tunnels. All upgrades were completed on budget during the pandemic and on-time without closing the tunnels to traffic.

Steven Kramer, senior vice president and project director for the work at COWI said: “This project was very close to home for our engineers, most of us have used these tunnels and know how vital they are to the ecosystem of New York. Working on such a deep-rooted part of our transport network can be challenging but our proactivity and collaboration with construction partners provided a design-build model that offered significant cost and schedule reductions.”

The project included the design and construction of a water mist fire suppression system prototype within the HLC tunnel, the first of its kind to be installed in North America. The team was able to implement this through its collaboration between designers and contractors with knowledge of local codes, vendors, and skilled tradespeople. The existing fire suppression system relied on the Fire Department of New York response, which could be impacted by traffic disruptions associated with a fire in the tunnel. The upgraded technology now protects the traveling public and provides additional protection to the tunnel infrastructure from fire damage.

“Safe and reliable infrastructure is essential to New York City, and CHA thrives on collaborating with partners like COWI to deliver solutions that allow the city to prosper. This was a complex project and the team involved was top notch.” said Lee Ecker, PE, senior vice president and Highway & Rail Business Practice Leader at CHA.
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