Metro Lowers ‘Angeli’ the Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine

The 21.5-foot diameter shell for "Angeli" the Metro Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
The 21.5-foot diameter shell for “Angeli” the Metro Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine. All photos: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

This morning, Metro celebrated the ceremonial naming and lowering of the Regional Connector subway tunnel boring machine. Metro’s newest TBM – another is currently tunneling portions of Metro’s Crenshaw/LAX light rail line – is named “Angeli.” The winning name was proposed by Windsor McInerny, a student at Woodrow Wilson High School.

McInerny was joined by a bevvy of transportation leaders excited about the progress that Angeli represents. Metro board chair John Fasana acted as master of ceremonies. City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti received the best laughs of the morning’s proceedings by noticing the “great turnout for such a boring event.”

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, L.A. City Councilmember Jose Huizar, and State Assemblymember Miguel Santiago rounded out the elected officials, all of whom mentioned the importance of Measure M without actually telling people how to vote, due to being on official government business time.

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Metro board chair John Fasana opens this morning’s Regional Connector Tunnel Boring Machine Lowering Ceremony

Alongside the electeds were California High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales, Regional Connector Community Leadership Council ED Russell Brown, and Metro CEO Phil Washington. Washington announced another Metro tunneling milestone: tomorrow morning the Crenshaw/LAX tunneling machine will break through at the future Leimert Park station. Morales joked to Washington not to get rid of the TBM: “When you’re done with this machine we’ll put it to use” building high-speed rail. 

Scale model of the TBM with actual TBM shell in the background
Scale model of the TBM with actual TBM shell in the background

The TBM is a big device, more or less a train itself. Once fully assembled, it is 400 feet long; Metro’s handy TBM fact sheet points out that this the length of ten school buses. It weighs 1,ooo tons. The front end features a rotating “cutter head” that acts like a giant cheese grater. Behind the head are conveyor belts that carry dirt to the tail of the machine. The machine digs, builds the circular concrete, and lays train tracks as it goes.

Today’s ceremony featured the lowering of a shell that will encase the front of Angeli. The 21.5-foot diameter ring was lowered to the bottom of the massive construction pit at First Street and Central Avenue in Little Tokyo. The full TBM will be assembled and begin excavating in January. It will move at a rate of about 60 feet per day.

The TBM shell is on the ground awaiting assembly
The TBM shell is on the ground awaiting assembly

The Regional Connector will be a 1.9-mile light rail subway with three new stations in downtown L.A. It will connect Metro’s Gold, Blue, and Expo light rail lines. The project had some early stutters resulting in some cost increase and time delay. The line is now expected to cost $1.55 billion and to open in 2021.

Regional Connector map - courtesy of Metro
Regional Connector map – courtesy of Metro

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