Proud of Mary: Machine to create new tunnels for HRBT will be named for Hampton’s Mary Jackson


Mary Winston Jackson (1921–2005) successfully overcame the barriers of segregation and gender bias to become a professional aerospace engineer and leader in ensuring equal opportunities for future generations. (Credit: NASA)

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The machine that will create the two new tunnels for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion will be named after Hampton’s own Mary Jackson.

Jackson, who became NASA’s first Black female engineer in 1958, was featured in the movie “Hidden Figures.”

VDOT asked students to submit names for the machine, and Jackson was top of mind for many. VDOT ultimately picked a submission from Saint Gregory the Great Catholic School – Team Sancti Potentes in Virginia Beach. They presented their case in the style of a newscast.

Students from Crittenden Middle School in Newport News also submitted the name “Mary” for Jackson. They were awarded second place in the contest for their brochure entry.

Students from Hunter B. Andrews PreK-8 in Hampton earned third place for their submission of the Emancipation Oak. The 400-year-old tree at Hampton University was the first classroom for many newly-freed slaves. Historians say it was the site of the first reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in the South.

In 2020, NASA named their headquarters building after Jackson, and she was also recently honored as the namesake of a new community center in Hampton.

The boring machine, which has a 46-foot diameter cutter head, is being manufactured now in Germany and is expected to be delivered in 2022.

The $3.8-billion expansion is set to be complete by 2025. It’s the largest infrastructure project in Virginia history.

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