Donning hard hats and safety vests on October 20, city leaders, county leaders and Metro officials invited the press underground to celebrate and spread the word about the progress that “Harriet”, the tunnel boring machine is making toward the opening of the Leimert Park Station along the future Crenshaw/ LAX rail line. A project that has been “a long time coming”, they said. Set to officially open in 2019, the group touted the station as an economic boon to Leimert Park and its surrounding communities. It has already provided and will continue to provide jobs and facilitate transportation allowing people to explore opportunities outside of their neighborhood.
“It is fitting today that we wait for Harriet to come through because the residents of this community have been waiting a long time,” said Mayor Garcetti appointee and Metro board member, Jackie Dupont-Walker, acknowledging the appropriateness of the machine being named for abolitionist and leader of the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman and remembering long time community activist, the late Brenda Marsh-Mitchell.
“A few years ago it was only a dream but look at this construction site. We know the vision and the dream are becoming reality. I can’t imagine enough the importance of mobility in this region and especially in this neighborhood where Angelenos need the opportunity to climb the economic ladder, whether it’s getting to school on time, getting to work, going to church or anywhere in the county; going to the doctor, just getting around…”
Harriet was lowered into the ground under the future Crenshaw/ Expo Station last winter and began digging to the South in April, according to Metro. It reached the Martin Luther King Jr. Station in August and began excavating the last segment of the one mile tunnel in September.
“Many of us were here in the winter when Harriet was lowered into the ground about a mile from here, recalled Metro Board Chairman John Fasana.
“She has since excavated an amazing 141,000 cubic yards of soil.”
The project, along with other transportation improvements and upgrades, is indicative Fasana explained, of Metro’s diligent stewardship of Los Angeles County’s tax dollars.
“Metro is taking full advantage of Measure R” he said of the half cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters to finance new transportation projects and programs, and accelerate those already in the pipeline.
“And you can see the results. They are tangible but more work needs to be done. We need the support of the public to keep this transformation alive. “
Joining Fasana and Walker, were some of the county’s most staunch advocates for the Leimert Park Station, including Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, congresswomen Maxine Waters and Karen Bass, Los Angeles City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson, State Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas and Metro CEO Phil Washington.
Sebastian Ridley, who was acknowledged as a “strong advocate” for the project, did not speak at the conference.
His father Mark however, was at no loss for words as he stood to laud the project and to explain its significance.
“The very thought of a rail stop in the center of Los Angeles’ African American community and culture right here in Leimert Park was no more than a dream. But we fought very hard, very diligently all over the region, not just here in Leimert Park but from one end of the region to the next,” he said.
“We celebrate a ride that will soon connect the airport, the South Bay and South Los Angeles with the rest of our growing transit system. I’m proud of the commitment to this job getting done right. The Crenshaw line shows that investments in transportation can be a catalyst for community and economic benefit…”
For her part, Bass echoed the others’ sentiments, being sure to emphasize how the project is bringing jobs and new opportunities to the area. She took a moment during her speech to reflect on the late Congressman Julian Dixon, who led the way in ensuring that the community could get funding for improvements.
“In his memory, when we finally break ground and cut the ribbon for the opening of the station, we need to remember the work that went into this many, many years ago,” she said.
“I pass here of course, all of the time. But, I had no idea what was going on beneath the ground level,” said Bass’ fellow congresswoman, Maxine Waters.
“To get on an elevator and to come down here, helps me to understand that the vision for this project, was absolutely extraordinary. This is so important to this entire region. This important station will provide access to a vibrant center of African American culture.”
Waters said she was “proud” to see that the Crenshaw/ LAX Corridor project received $20 million Federal grant from the Transportation Investment Economic Recovery program, one she strongly supported.
Harris- Dawson said he hopes the new station will be a destination for all of Los Angeles and that people coming from the airport will see Leimert Park as a “place they want to be.”
Daniel P. Walsh , president of Walsh Shea Construction, whose workers are heading up the Crenshaw/LAX project, assured the audience that they are “working hand-in-hand with Metro to get it done on time.”
Ensuring that the company would make good on that promise, Metro CEO Phil Washington asked him to sign a resolution, saying that they would complete the project by 2019 or possibly sooner.
Because, he said, “this is a transportation revolution. Metro is the custodian of the valuable tax payer dollars and we take this role very seriously. This is an additional 455,000 jobs. It is the creation of a new middle class. It is reaching out to the communities to make sure that young people have the skills to work on transportation infrastructure.
It’s keeping fares affordable for seniors and the disabled, for students, for returning veterans, for ex-felons.”
After the resolution signing, those in attendance witnessed Harriet boring another hole, making her way further through the tunnel.