DC Water names First Street Tunnel boring machine for Lucy Diggs Slowe

April 14, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Today DC Water named the third tunnel boring machine (TBM) in its fleet and christened her with tap water in a ceremony to bless the machinery and the workers for a safe and successful underground journey. The TBM, and those who work on it, will mine a large tunnel about 100 feet below ground to help alleviate flooding in Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park during heavy rains.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said, "This part of DC Waters Clean Rivers Project will bring relief to these neighborhoods that have experienced flooding for more than 100 years. The First Street Tunnel is the product of extensive collaboration between DC Water and the District agencies to find an innovative and timely solution to damaging local flooding. The project will bring needed relief to the community and help put residents on a pathway to the middle class."

Added DC Water CEO and GM George S. Hawkins, "We have worked with the community on many measures to help alleviate the flooding and have maintained a close working relationship throughout the First Street Tunnel Project, locating a site office within the neighborhood, setting up a Tunnel Forum group and establishing a 24/7 hotline. This is a time to celebrate this project and the technology and the people who will bring this flood-relief project to fruition."

Also on hand to bless the TBM were Pastor Bobby Livingston of Mt. Bethel Baptist Church and the Reverend Kent Marcoux of St. Georges Episcopal Church. Both churches are in Bloomingdale.

This TBM weighs 1,582 tons and has a cutterhead 23 feet in diameter. According to tunneling tradition, a Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) must be named and commissioned before it can go to work. In the U.S., TBMs are named after a woman, just as ships are in the nautical world. To date, DC Water has named two tunnel boring machines - "Lady Bird" for the Blue Plains Tunnel and "Nannie" for the Anacostia River Tunnel. Both names carry historical significance.

For the First Street Tunnel TBM, DC Water engaged the community to vote on the name. Lucy Diggs Slowe was the winner, besting Mary Church Terrell and Anna J. Cooper, all strong candidates with local community connections.

Lucy Diggs Slowe (1895-1937) was a local and the First Dean of Women at Howard University in 1922. There, she established a womens campus and influenced the appointment of womens deans throughout the country. During her tenure, three new residence halls were built. A co-ed residence in the historic LeDroit Park is currently named in her honor. Prior to that, she founded Shaw Junior High School in 1919, the first junior high school in the District of Columbia school system. In the same year, she was also appointed principal of the school. She was a founding member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and was inducted into the 26th annual Maryland Womens Hall of Fame. In addition, she was a decorated athlete, winning the American Tennis Associations first tournament in 1919, making her the first African-American woman to win a major sports title.

Though this is the third TBM employed by DC Water to build the Anacostia River Tunnel system, this project is using additional innovative technology by freezing the ground to minimize the vibrations of the equipment. Ground freezing is an innovative method to support open ground excavations that protects adjacent structures in a smaller construction footprint, with less dust, noise and material deliveries, than other excavation support methods.

The accelerated design and construction schedule will provide substantial flood relief by spring 2016 by creating storage for nine million gallons of stormwater and wastewater during storms. In 2022, the First Street Tunnel will connect with DC Waters Northeast Boundary Tunnel segment, to complete the 13.1 mile Anacostia River Tunnel system.

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