The Metropolitan Transportation Authority paid homage to a civil rights heroine while preparing to clear a path for the Crenshaw/LAX Line about 80 feet beneath South Los Angeles.
Supervisor and Metro Board Chair Mark Ridley-Thomas led a dedication ceremony on February 1st to name the Line’s tunnel boring machine (TBM) after abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who delivered dozens of slaves into freedom via a network of secret routes and safe houses called the Underground Railroad.
“I can think of no better way to kick off Black History Month than to name the Crenshaw/LAX Line’s tunnel boring machine after Harriet Tubman, the legendary conductor of the Underground Railroad,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “I am confident that this marvel of engineering now known as ‘Harriet’ will carry on its namesake’s legacy of forging new paths to greater opportunities.”
Like ships, TBMs are named before being put to work for the first time, to bring good luck.
With a front end resembling a 20-foot tall cheese grater, and as long as 10 school buses placed end-to-end, “Harriet” still has to be lowered underground, and then assembled over several weeks. It would then spend just over a year drilling twin mile-long tunnels to connect three underground train stations where Crenshaw Boulevard intersects with Exposition Boulevard; Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard; and Vernon Ave. near Leimert Park. The Line ascends to street level beyond that point.
“Today is about more than just launching the tunnel boring machine, it is about the promise we have made to help our communities move forward,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “The Crenshaw/LAX Line will serve riders who have been historically underserved and, in doing so, it will ease congestion and get Angelenos to the people and places they love.”
Slated for completion in 2019, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line would be the first to serve the Crenshaw District and Inglewood since streetcars were decommissioned in the 1950’s.
It will have eight stations – the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line, and southernmost to the Green Line, where passengers will be able to get on a people mover to the Los Angeles International Airport. It is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000.
Metro held a contest to name and embellish its TBM. Students submitted more than 230 essays and artworks, which drew 50,000 votes online. Harriet, proposed by 11th grader Calvin Mosely of City Honors High School in Inglewood, emerged as the crowd favorite. The winning artwork was a colorful drawing by 3rd grader Brittany Hernandez of Lloyd Owen Knox Elementary School in Los Angeles.
In honor of the TBM, local restaurants Earlez Grill, Brooklyn Deli, Jordan’s Hot Dogs and Southern Girl Desserts have each named a dish “Harriet.” Metro Board member and Inglewood Mayor James Butts said Metro would continue to provide support to businesses along the route while construction is ongoing and thanked the businesses for their patience.
“The progress we’re seeing today is only the first of many exciting milestones we’ll experience in 2016,” said Metro CEO Phillip Washington. “In March, the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension to Azusa will open and in late spring we will cut the ribbon on the Metro Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. These developments demonstrate that investment in transportation moves our County forward now and in the future.”