2017 Feature, Large Newsroom finalist

Inside the Massive Tunnel 60 Feet Below L.A.

Thomas Curwen, Mel Melcon, Albert Lee, Lorena Iñiguez Elebee, Sean Greene and Andrea Roberson

Los Angeles Times

Feature, Large Newsroom


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About the Project

In late winter 2017, the Los Angeles Times was given the unique (and exclusive) opportunity by the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority to report on a massive tunneling machine that was creating a new subway tunnel under the streets of downtown Los Angeles. The Times sent a team of reporters (Thomas Curwen, Mel Melcon, Albert Lee and Lorena Iniguez Elebee) who, after a four-hour safety class, joined the miners on two day-shifts as they steered and maneuvered this 400-foot, 1,000-ton earth-chewing beast, affectionately known as Angeli, through a stratum of dirt known as the Fernando Formation.

Thanks to the production work of Sean Greene and Andrea Roberson, the story — in words, in pictures, video and a 360-video — immersed readers into the sights and sounds and history of tunnels, and it provided an introduction into the world of moles and sandhogs, the men — there were no women on this shift — who can imagine doing nothing else for a living than tunneling. “Why is tunneling so addicting?” asks one. “It’s like watching civilization in action.”