Breakthrough

The Big Picture

PHOTO: David McNew/Getty Images

Meet Lola. She lives in LA, weighs more than 1815 tons, is 105 meters long, stands 6.4 meters tall, is fed by a 13.2 kilovolt line, and has an 1800-kilowatt motor. She can bore through 15 meters of earth a day, and has a face (you’re looking at it) only a civil engineering contractor could love. She and her twin sister Viki, an identical $10 million-tunnel boring machine, were made specially to match the subway-tunneling needs of the city, says Jack Brockway, senior vice president of Herrenknecht Tunneling Systems USA, the U.S. subsidiary of the twins’ German manufacturer.In November, Lola finished a 1.7-mile tunnel and broke through to a future light rail station on a route that by 2009 will connect East Los Angeles to downtown, 6 miles away. Los Angeles, famous for dismantling its extensive public transportation system in favor of massive freeways in the mid-20th century, is experiencing a light-rail renaissance. It’s now number three in the United States in terms of the number of riders and has ambitious expansion plans. So Viki and Lola should be busy for many years.

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