On a sunny July day at a construction site near the Washington Nationals’ ballpark, DC Water and our contractors began raising Lady Bird from a 100-foot-deep shaft. Lady Bird is the name of the massive 1,323 ton tunnel boring machine that built a 4.5 mile long tunnel underneath the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers as part of our $2.6 billion Clean Rivers Project. This tunnel segment is the first of several that will reduce combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia River by 98%.
The successful completion of this initial tunnel is an achievement worth celebrating. The complex and risky mining project was finished on-time, on-budget, and completed without incident. Rather than celebrate the project’s success internally behind opaque construction fencing, our team at DC Water engaged the media and invited them to celebrate with us!
Many news outlets were already familiar with Lady Bird through our continuous public engagement throughout the two-year project. Naming tunnel boring machines is commonplace, but Lady Bird, named after Claudia Alta “Lady Bird” Johnson, First Lady and wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, developed a cult following among both residents and the media. She had a unique personality developed through her now-retired @ladybirdTBM Twitter account, and her web page allowed fans to keep tabs on her voyage underground. Adding a human element to this complicated infrastructure project was a creative way to engage the public by providing an accessible avenue to convey the purpose of DC Water’s work. Even if the average citizen may be unfamiliar with stormwater management and engineering, they at least knew that Lady Bird was doing important work on their behalf to improve the quality of the Anacostia River.
Through DC Water’s Office of External Affairs, we hope to continue this level of engagement with the media and the public by telling the story of @LucyTBM and @NannieTBM, the two other sister TBMs currently making their way underground in the nation’s capital . As an industry, we must find creative ways to inform the public about our work. Without their buy-in, we will be unable to raise the resources needed to upgrade our essential water infrastructure.
— Lucy Diggs Slowe (@LucyTBM) July 23, 2015
Washington Post – Boring machine ‘Lady Bird’ is almost done with its work digging under D.C.
Washington Post Express – Lady Bird TBM emerges from her hole
NBC 4 Washington – D.C. Tunnel Boring Machine Surfaces
NBC 4 Washington – Enormous DC Water Tunnel-Boring Machine Completes 2-Year, 4.5-Mile Mission
NBC 4 Washington – Huge Tunnel Boring Machine Completes Mission for DC Water
WTOP – Cutterhead emerges from DC Water’s new stormwater tunnel
WJLA Channel 7 – Tunnel boring machine lifted to surface in D.C.
WUSA9 – “Lady Bird” resurfaces after 2 years of digging