The thrilling first day of the XBL--
I vividly remember the first thrill in my Port Authority career. Fifty
years ago--Friday, December 18, 1970, at about 6:45 am-- I was 24 and
alone in the quiet Lincoln Tunnel Manager’s office. The only sound
breaking the silence was the facility radio squawking chatter from the
The facility radio suddenly crackled out:
“First bus entering XBL.”
Wow! The first bus in the XBL-- the exclusive bus lane-- a lane for
buses only going towards the tunnel--reversed and against outbound
traffic--was still about ten minutes away from being in sight out the
manager’s big windows.
I can still feel the thrill. I relished being alone to hide my tense
glee, but scared at the same time: what if an accident happens? I looked
out the large window to the “helix” approach roadway bringing traffic
down to the toll booths. No buses in sight yet. And the Police radio was
ominously silent. I was “flying blind,” wondering if everything was
going okay. There were no mobile phones to call anyone.
Then: “First bus passing Palisade
Avenue.” Halfway there! Relief, breathe!
This was my first real project … the first time that I had helped plan
and design something that was actually happening! The first bus had
entered the 2-1/2 mile-long single reversed lane for buses only, to
bypass inbound cars and trucks on the other “right” side of the roadway.
It would go against traffic on this three-lane road, separated from
oncoming traffic by a not-very-formidable combination of yellow plastic
posts, double-yellow lane stripes, and overhead red Xs or green down
I was told that the first bus moved
slowly down the lane at 35 mph, closely following a Port Authority
police car leading the way with its roof lights blazing. Other buses
followed like a line of elephants marching on a narrow path, not poking
anything out for fear of getting clipped by oncoming traffic.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the first bus appeared at the top
of the helix! I shivered in the quiet--it seemed like it was going in
slow motion, crawling down the helix, and around the big turn to the
And then it was into the tunnel. I stood
transfixed. The first bus on the XBL had made it through. Later I heard
later that jubilant passengers on the buses that day had applauded as
they passed by the horrific inbound traffic!
The XBL was a huge success from Day One, achieving national recognition
for the Port Authority. I am delighted that anyone can still experience
it, as the XBL operation is virtually unchanged from that first day
fifty years ago, a testament to the Port Authority planners, engineers,
PAPD, operations and other staff who made it happen!