LEIMERT PARK — Marking another milestone in Southland rail construction, a tunnel-boring machine broke through the ground into the site of a future subway station here Oct. 20, completing the first of two tunnels that will connect three stations along the Crenshaw/LAX Light Rail line.
The newly completed tunnel will accommodate southbound tracks for the line, which will stretch from the Expo Line’s Crenshaw Station to the Green Line near Los Angeles International Airport. The tunnel-boring machine — named “Harriet” in honor of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, known for her “Underground Railroad” of safe houses for escaped slaves — will now be moved back to Crenshaw and Exposition boulevards to begin digging the tunnel for the northbound tracks.
Harriet was lowered into the ground under the future Crenshaw/Expo Station in February and began digging to the south in April. In August, it reached the Martin Luther King Jr. Station and then began excavating the last segment of the one-mile tunnel in September.
“For decades, the thought of a rail stop at the center of African-American culture in Los Angeles was no more than a dream,” County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Today, as Harriet blazes a path to what will someday become Leimert Park Station, we can finally celebrate that dream becoming reality.”
“After the demise of the street cars, Los Angeles residents dreamed and fought for years for a return of rail transit to the Crenshaw corridor,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “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 Los Angeles International Airport.”
The $2.058-billion project is funded largely by Measure R approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The light rail line will include eight new stations to serve the Crenshaw, Inglewood and LAX communities and accommodations for an additional station at 96th Street that will offer easy rail and bus transfers to the future LAX people mover that will serve airport terminals.
“It is our hope that South Los Angeles residents are very proud of the construction of the Crenshaw/LAX light-rail line,” MTA board member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker said.
MTA CEO Phillip Washington announced that the authority and contractor Walsh Shea Corridor Constructors have committed to completing the Crenshaw Line in 2019.
“This agreement provides a partnership framework for us and our contractors to work through project changes to deliver projects to the public within the expected, and possibly accelerated, timeline,” Washington said. “When the Crenshaw/LAX Rail Line opens in 2019, the real winners will be the traveling public as the rail system offers more mobility options to Los Angeles county residents.”