Meet Luciana, Both of Them

Giant Tunnel Boring Machine, Named for Project Manager’s Daughter, Goes into Action to Construct Major Trunk Line for Reliability

By Michael Ventre

Luciana stands three-foot eight-inches tall and weighs 38 pounds. She has long brown hair, angelic grey eyes and is a little shy. She likes pancakes, coloring and “Frozen.” She is a native of Southern California.

The other Luciana stands 13 feet in diameter and weighs about 200 tons. She arrived from Germany in pieces, on 21 trucks. Boring is the word most often used to describe her, but in a good way.

If your task is to dig a tunnel of over two miles under the City of Burbank, you might be wise to enlist the latter, although given the lineage of the former, that Luciana might figure out a way to do it also.

Luciana is the four-year-old daughter of Johan Torroledo, a manager in the LADWP Project Management Office. Among other responsibilities, he oversees River Supply Conduit Upper Reach Unit 7 (RSC7), a major Water System infrastructure improvement project. The other Luciana is named after her, a giant Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). According to a tradition in the mining industry that dates back to the 1500s, a TBM can’t begin work until it is officially named after a woman for good luck. The LADWP project team went with Luciana, because both are powerful and irresistible in their own way.

Through the RSC7 project, LADWP will install over 12,000 linear feet of 78-inch diameter welded steel trunk line pipe. The project began in December 2018 and is scheduled to be completed by April 2022. This particular tunneling phase is set to begin in Spring 2020 and is scheduled to finish in late 2021.

RSC7 team, from left: Alex Reyman, Construction Manager; Fidel Zabalza, Resident Engineer; Johan Torroledo; Luciana Torroledo; Stephanie Sweigart; Richard Harasick; Ali Sabouni, Construction Management & Support Contracts Manager. Photo by Art Mochizuki

Luciana the TBM is rarely seen by the public, but not because she’s bashful. It’s just her nature. After being lowered into a deep pit on the project site at Johnny Carson Park South – which is hidden by a large wooden fence – the TBM will disappear from view and will work in private, 63 feet below ground level, boring her way under the 134 Freeway and onward in a northwest direction to an end point at the intersection of Burbank and Biloxi. There it will join with RSC 5 & 6, which was completed in 2018. Eventually it will all connect with Headworks Reservoir.

This current project will replace the original River Supply Conduit, which was installed in the 1940s.

“LADWP has many projects underway to improve water system reliability and provide high quality drinking water to the 4 million residents of Los Angeles,” said Richard Harasick, LADWP’s Senior Assistant General Manager – Water System.

“Because of their size and scope, trunk line projects are among the more challenging in our efforts to upgrade infrastructure. This RSC7 project is a vitally important part of that overall effort. I would like to thank both our outstanding LADWP project team and the City of Burbank and its residents for teaming up to help us make this project a success.”

On February 8, 2020, a sunny Saturday morning, the general public was welcomed onto the project site to listen to Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer and Harasick speak, and then to be briefed on the work and the TBM by members of the project team. The lure of the event was evident, as approximately 60 to 75 visitors came by and had the mystery of “What’s behind the fence at Johnny Carson Park South?” solved.

“This was a great opportunity for us to explain RSC7 to the public,” Torroledo explained, “and I believe the people who attended were fully engaged and really came away with a much better understanding of the work we’re doing here. I want to thank the members of our project team who were here to answer questions and show visitors around.”

While the TBM is the main attraction at RSC7, a production of this magnitude doesn’t advance an inch without a great team. Overseeing the project is  Torroledo, who served as project manager before receiving a promotion just prior to the arrival of Luciana (the TBM, not the daughter). Torroledo has been at the Department for 16 years.

Project Manager Ruwanka Purasinghe with the giant tunnel boring machine. Photo by Art Mochizuki

He handed off project management duties to Ruwanka Purasinghe, who has been with LADWP for over six years. Before joining the Project Management Office about a year and a half ago, Purasinghe served in the Geotechnical Engineering Group and brings a reservoir of tunneling experience to this massive undertaking.

“I am excited to take on this tunneling project as it will be a new perspective for me looking at things from the project management side,” Purasinghe said, “and hopefully being able to bring my previous experience into the decision-making and considerations made. I am also excited to be able to work with the stakeholders and communities on sharing information about this important LADWP project.”

Ali Sabouni serves as Construction Management and Support Contracts Manager. Also among the headliners is Alex Reyman, Construction Manager, who has an encyclopedic understanding of the project both on the macro and micro levels, and also has perfect eyesight when it comes to spotting potential safety violations. Fidel Zabalza is resident engineer. And there is also Julio Venegas, who is the design manager and performed all the high-tech slide-rule wizardry.

Then, of course, there is Luciana. “She is a marvel,” Torroledo said.

Clearly, he is very proud of Luciana. Both of them.