The Narrows Rail Tunnel (The Brooklyn-Richmond Freight & Passenger Tunnel)

New! - BHRA's Narrows Tunnel Plan - (subway to SI and freight service btw NJ and L.I.)  - also BHRA's critique of the PANYNJ's plan. (1.3mb PDF)

New!  - Original construction plans for the "Narrows Tunnel" - possibly a shovel ready project (5mb PDF)

One of the most frequent questions asked during tours of the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is: "what other forgotten tunnels exist in the NYC area?"  Most of the tunnels that lay dormant and unused are short spurs created by rail projects that were begun, then abandoned before completion.  The Verrazano Rail Tunnel would have connected Brooklyn's rail and subway system with Staten Island's Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) railroad branch and the Staten Island Railway.  On this page you will find information relating to this unfinished rail line.

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They Called The 1923 Narrows Tunnel: 'Hope And A Hole In The Ground'

Above is the first page of the ca 1964 article on the Narrows Tunnel. Despite what it says, it was supposed to be directly connected to the subway system.  Above is the second page of the ca 1964 article on the Narrows Tunnel. Note: photo above shows existing shaft cap at foot of 68th street.

The writer of the above 1964 article, was unaware that in 1933 the scope of the tunnel project was expanded.  This modification changed the project from a two track rail tunnel, to a 4 track tunnel. Two of the four tubes were designated for electrified rail (passenger and freight ) and two tubes were designed for a subway connection to the Fourth Avenue line (the R train).

Notice the article says a total of nearly $4.3 million was spent on the Narrows Tunnel project, with approx. $1.2 million going into the construction of the Brooklyn and Staten Island shafts.  Where is the balance of $ 3.1 million? That was a huge amount of money back in 1923. It certainly didn't all go for design work- back then, that would have only been in the $100,000 range. Possibly there's more tunnel than is thought to exist.

"The Subway That Was Never Built"

According to the newsletter (at left), the Narrows tunnel was just the "tip of the iceberg".

The full plan called for a "loop tunnel" system under NY harbor, consisting of the Narrows Tunnel, the 4th Avenue Brooklyn subway, and another tunnel going directly from Staten Island to Manhattan, with stops on the Jersey side of the harbor, and even stations at Liberty and Ellis islands.

1922 Board of Estimate Report: "The Narrows Tunnel"

Cover Brooklyn Shaft cross-section view

Brooklyn Shaft Plan View (shows existing Brooklyn shaft location)

1929 Land Use Map Desk Atlas "E. Belcher Hyde Map" Vol. 3, Sect 15- 19.
The proposed subway line connecting Brooklyn with Staten Island was NYC Board of Transportation Route # 122-123, October 25, 1933.  The Narrows tunnel connections to the 4th Avenue subway are clear, but incorrectly marked as "vehicular tunnel".

The Fourth Avenue subway connection (Staten Island bound tube) can be seen under 67th Street. The Manhattan bound tube is visible under Senator Street. They merge just west of 3rd Avenue. The intermediate tunnel between the Shore Road Shaft and the 4th Avenue subway connection.  

The Brooklyn Shaft still exists today at the foot of 68th Street, between Shore Road and the Belt Parkway.

How They Would Have Built It: Board of Estimate Report on Two Underwater Construction Methods (circa 1925).  

Shield Method
Trench Method 

Scholarly Writings On The Narrows Tunnel:

Information on the political and economic history behind the Narrows Tunnel can be found in D.A. Johnson's book "Planning the Great Metropolis: The 1929 Regional Plan of New York And Its Environs". (see pages 202- 212)

Many of these pages are available for viewing free of charge on Google Book Search at: http://tinyurl.com/6fer3b

Links to related material on other websites
A Tunnel From SI To Brooklyn Verrazano-Narrows Bridge

Also more writings by Bob on this topic can be found on the "The Brooklyn Grade Crossing Elimination Project" website

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