“Harriet” and “Ruth” will dig tunnels for Purple Line Extension between Beverly Hills and Century City; artwork for TBMs unveiled

From left, former Santa Monica Mayor Pam O’Connor, Metro Board Member Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Ruby Santamaria, Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch, Hans Smallwood and Metro CEO Phil Washington.

Metro joined elected officials and community members today in Century City for a ceremonial naming and unveiling of its second set of tunnel boring machines that will dig twin subway tunnels between Beverly Hills and Century City. Subway tunneling is expected to begin in early 2020.

The names “Harriet” and “Ruth” were selected from a winning entry submitted by 6th grade Turning Point School student Ruby Santamaria. Harriet and Ruth were named after Harriet Tubman, known for her role in the Underground Railroad, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who fights for gender equality and social justice. Hans Smallwood, a 3rd grade student from Good Shepherd Catholic School in Beverly Hills won the art contest. His winning illustration showed the Purple Line Extension subway running under Rodeo Drive.

A closer look at the artwork on the TBMs by student Hans Smallwood.

Students were challenged to name the TBMs and create illustrations for the TBM tail shields as part of a contest. More than 2,500 votes were cast for the contests. The students were awarded TAP cards and other prizes by Metro Board Director Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker.

Metro will issue the commemorative TAP cards to the public featuring Han’s winning artwork and Ruby’s tunnel boring machine names this winter. The commemorative TAP cards will be available at TAP vending machines at existing stations along the Purple Line subway later this year. 

Metro has received the cutterhead and shield for its tunnel boring machines, which are now staged at Metro’s Century City Station construction yard. TBMs will be assembled at the station site and will dig eastward to Wilshire/La Cienega in Beverly Hills. Metro’s Section Two contractor, Tutor Perini O&G, is building this portion of the project.

The TBMs are manufactured in Germany by Herrenknecht AG. They weigh approximately 1,000 tons, are 400 feet long and are 21.75 feet in diameter. They will advance about 60 feet per day once digging begins. The depths of tunnels will vary throughout the underground alignment, ranging from 50 to 120 feet. TBMs will tunnel five days per week, 20 hours per day and take approximately two years to complete their work.

TBM naming is a mining tradition that dates to the 14th century. Saint Barbara, the patron saint for military engineers and miners, has been revered by underground workers as a symbol of protection and good luck for centuries. This homage evolved into the tradition of giving tunneling machines a female name before digging begins.

Overall, the Purple Line Extension Project consists of three construction phases. When complete, the project will extend Purple Line service nine miles farther west and include seven new stations: Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax, Wilshire/La Cienega, Wilshire/Rodeo, Century City/Constellation, Westwood/UCLA and Westwood/VA Hospital. When the entire project is completed in 2027, the subway extension is expected to serve 59,000 riders daily – including 17,000 new riders. The project is funded by Measure R, federal grants and accelerated by Measure M, the two most recent sales tax measures approved by Los Angeles County voters for transportation improvements.                              

For more information on the Metro Purple Line Extension, visit www.metro.net/purplelineext.

5 replies

  1. Who “selected” the names? My main objection is that “Harriet” was already the name of the Crenshaw Line TBM, and now we have another “Harriet”.

    There are so many people throughout history who deserve to be honored and remembered with a TBM name. Sojourner Truth, Oskar Schindler, Dolores Huerta, Malala Yousafzai, Thurgood Marshall…to name just a few.

    It just seems like a wasted opportunity to reuse one person’s name, rather than honoring different people.

  2. “Han’s winning artwork” If the child’s name is Hans, shouldn’t that be “Hans’s winning artwork”?

    • Hi Gerald;

      Good catch. I think it should be Hans’. I’ll fix!

      Steve Hymon
      Editor, The Source

      • How do you know that Hans prefered pronoun is ‘his’? Why not use Hans’ name. Or in true LAT fashion use – Smallwood’s winning artwork.