Washington D.C. is overflowing with crap-and not just the sort spewed in Congress. Rather, its ancient sewage system regularly overflows, sending a literal river of poo into the city's waterways. Lady Bird is the name of the giant tunneling machine sent to stop it.
The Washington Post calls this 443-foot-long beast "the most amazing and expensive construction project that no one ever will see." Its job? To dig out a massive tunnel below downtown Washington over the next five years or more, creating a place for all the overflow sewage to be shunted away from the city's rivers.
According to the Post, D.C. has one of the oldest sewage systems in the country-it hasn't been renovated since the 1800s.
100 feet below the city, Lady Bird is now grinding through mud and rock at four inches per minute-making her a speed demon by tunneling standards, but glacially slow by our own. Her thirty-foot-wide front end is covered in a cutter face that's pushed forward by hydraulic jacks:
These rotate the head, which thus grinds the earth into a paste that's then passed back through a tube to the end of the machine, where it's removed.
Behind this giant worm-like machine, huge concrete panels are already being laid down to create the tunnel that will carry the sewage normally relegated to the Potomac and Anacostia rivers:
Of course, what's a massive city infrastructure project without an anthropomorphic online presence? On D.C. Water's website, you can find a profile of Lady Bird written in the first person-including details like her friendship with Mom Chung and Bertha, her tunneling counterparts in San Francisco and Seattle. And, on her Twitter, she tweets sweet messages to her fellow diggers-like congratulations to a Warsaw digger, now retiring after a long job well done.
For Lady Bird, though, the job is just beginning. [Washington Post]