Construction of the $2-billion rail line through South Los Angeles to LAX hit a major milestone as the engineering marvel dubbed “Harriet” finished excavating a mile-long tunnel beneath Crenshaw Boulevard and broke through to what would become the Leimert Park Station.
“For decades, the thought of a rail stop at the center of African American culture in Los Angeles was no more than a dream,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who serves on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. “Today, as Harriet blazes a path to what will someday become the Leimert Park Station, we can finally celebrate that dream becoming reality.”
“This is one more milestone for this very important link in our fast-growing transit network,” added Metro Board Chair and Duarte City Council Member John Fasana. “It won’t be long until we’re out here celebrating the beginning of rail service in this vital corridor.”
Slated for completion in Fall 2019, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project will have eight stations serving passengers in the Crenshaw District, Leimert Park, Inglewood, Westchester, and LAX. Its northern terminus will connect to the Expo Line, while the southern terminus will link up with the Green Line. Accommodations will be provided for an additional station at 96th Street with easy rail and bus transfers to the future LAX people mover to airport terminals.
It took the tunnel boring machine, which the local community named after Harriet Tubman, legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad, six months to dig the first of twin tunnels that would link the Crenshaw/Expo, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Leimert Park Stations. The 950-ton, 400-foot long, 21-foot wide Harriet will now have to be taken apart, hauled back to its starting point at Crenshaw and Exposition Boulevards, lowered into the ground and reassembled to dig the second tunnel, which would house the rail line’s northbound tracks.
Funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2008, the Crenshaw/LAX Line is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000. It would be the first to serve the area since street cars – dubbed “Yellow Cars” – stopped running in the 1950’s.
“After the demise of the streetcars, Los Angeles residents dreamed and fought for years for a return of rail transit to the Crenshaw corridor,” said Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board First Vice Chair Eric Garcetti. “That dream is now becoming a reality and we will soon have easy access via transit to some of our city’s oldest neighborhoods and LAX.”
Metro CEO Phillip Washington added, “When the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line opens in 2019, the real winners will be the traveling public as the Metro rail system offers more mobility options to Los Angeles county residents.”