Getting Ready for the Big Dig at Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project

What’s as long as ten school buses placed end to end, as tall as four people standing on each other’s shoulders, and powerful enough to drill a hole the length of 30 football fields?

It’s the tunnel-boring machine that, starting this fall, will excavate the two-mile-long underground section of the $2-billion Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project.

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The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has all sorts of fun facts about the TBM, but nothing to distinguish it – not even a name. That’s about to change.

This week, Metro is launching a contest for students to name the TBM, and embellish it. Preschool through elementary school students are invited to create an art illustration that will be printed on the TBM, while middle school and high school students will compete in an essay/video contest to name the TBM, and make history in the process.

Like ships, TBMs are named before being put to work for the first time, to bring good luck. Traditionally, a female name is chosen because the patron saint for underground workers is Saint Barbara.

With a front end like a massive cheese grater, and operated by a crew of 15, the TBM will drill through the earth about 80 feet below Crenshaw Boulevard. It will take about a year to dig a two-mile long path for trains to run from the Crenshaw/Expo station, past the Crenshaw/MLK station, and finally to the Crenshaw/Vernon station. The rail line ascends to street level beyond that point.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 2.46.23 PMEntries for the naming contest and art contest will be accepted until September 1. Contestants are encouraged to be clever, creative, original, and emphasize the significance of the rail line to the community. Winners will be selected shortly before the TBM is lowered into the ground.

Slated for completion in 2019, the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project would be the first to serve the Crenshaw District and Inglewood since streetcars were decommissioned in the 1950’s.

Funded through Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by voters, it is projected to have a daily ridership of 13,000 to 16,000. It will have eight stations, the northernmost connecting to the Expo Line, and southernmost to the Green Line, not far from Los Angeles International Airport.

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CREDIT: Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors, contractor for the Crenshaw/LAX Transit Project