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Driven: The Story of the Ferry Street Tunnel

 

At 1 p.m. on December 21, 1967 the Ferry Street Tunnel—which runs under the Russell Sage campus—opened to traffic for the first time.


Earl Broomall of Cohoes, N.Y. was driving the first car to pass through the tunnel. He was proud of the fact that he was first in a line which included several Cadillacs. While he was being interviewed by a reporter, five Sage students jumped into his car. “Where ya going?” he shouted. “With you!” they answered. “We’re representing Dr. Froman — unofficially, of course.”

Thus it was that Earl Broomall and his Sage student passengers Linda Styles ’70, Carol Ann Gagallo ’68, Arlene Wong ’68, Bernice Kuhl ’68 and Nancy Edwards ’69, according to the reporter, “left some rubber” as Broomall “roared into the tunnel, the horn blaring and the co-eds waving” as bystanders cheered.

 

President Froman — the real driver behind the Ferry Street Tunnel — couldn’t be at the Tunnel’s ahead-of-schedule opening because of a previously planned trip to the West Coast. He did check out the project before he left, however. In the December 20 Troy Times Record, there was a photo of him in his car at the entrance of the tunnel.

 

 

But exactly why and how did the Ferry Street Tunnel project come about?

 

President Froman saw red when he heard of New York State’s plan to widen Ferry Street to create a major arterial, and waged a two-year campaign to relocate Ferry Street under the campus rather than through it.

 

Sage and the State finally reached an agreement. Russell Sage College would pay $1.5 million— the difference between the State’s originally planned surface arterial project and the College’s proposed underpass project.

 

There was a glitch, however. By law the State could not deal directly with a private party for public construction, so an arrangement was made whereby the College would give the money to the City, which would pay the State. On March 29, 1965, representatives from the State, the City and the College signed agreements paving the way for this unique project.

 

Bids were opened on November 18 and the project was awarded to A. S. Wikstrom, Inc. of Skaneateles. The contract called for completion of the tunnel by June 1968. On January 10, 1966, Ferry Street was closed to traffic and construction began in earnest.

 

The project ran along Ferry Street from River to Third with the actual underpass extending from just west of First Street to just east of Second—about one-third of a mile where Ferry Street ran through the campus.

 

The Tunnel, with a 14-foot clearance, has two travel lanes, a breakdown lane and an emergency pedestrian walkway. It had two large fans that would be activated by high concentrations of carbon dioxide and pump in fresh air (Those aboveground fans were situated right on the RSC campus, and never needed to be activated. They were removed during the building of Buchman Pavilion and renovation of the Mall).

 

Although the entire tunnel is eight feet above the Hudson River, it was fitted with two heavy duty pumps and eight large catch-basins to collect storm waters. Temperatures remained mild enough to be able to work with cement to complete the underpass in December 1967—six months ahead of schedule.

 

The Tunnel—or Underpass, as it was originally known—was a winning situation for all three parties involved. New York State got its arterial which improved the flow of east-bound traffic through Troy; the City of Troy got better flow of traffic on First and Second Streets and beautification of an area of the city; and Russell Sage College got a landscaped walkway which created a beautiful campus.

 

In 1969, the Tunnel concept won an honorable mention award from the U. S. Department of Transportation for its beauty and usefulness in the category “Most Outstanding Example of Multiple-Use—Urban and Rural Highways with Other Related Activities.”

 

Sage Archivist Aggie Stillman answers questions of interest to RSC alumnae.
Write “Ask Aggie” at stilla@sage.edu or
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