A transportation tunnel under the Hudson River connecting Manhattan and New Jersey was first considered in the 1860s, fueled by New York City's rapidly growing congestion and the inadequacy of existing ferry service to population centers across the river. DeWitt Clinton Haskin, an engineer formerly with the Union Pacific Railroad, started the project in 1874 and subsequently endured an extended lawsuit, several failures of the tunnel wall, and an exhaustion of funds before quitting in 1887 with only 1,600 feet completed.
"Eads had to succeed in the face of conventional wisdom which doomed him to disaster. Entrenched authorities not only completely dismissed his theories, but pointed to the indifferent European experiences with what he proposed."
- ASCE Landmark Nomination Proposal, 1982
In the decade following the Civil War, the Mississippi River began to lose its standing as the primary transport artery in the Midwest. Railroads were taking over, and Chicago was rapidly becoming the center of Midwestern commerce. The Eads Bridge was the first major railroad link over the Mississippi, constructed by the city of St. Louis in an attempt to maintain its dominance as a regional commercial hub.