This is how the Broadway Subway will be built over the next five years

Jun 16 2021, 1:14 pm

There will be short-term pain for long-term gain along the Broadway Corridor in Vancouver for the years-long process of building the subway.

Major construction on the SkyTrain Millennium Line’s 5.7-km-long Broadway Extension officially began last month ahead of a planned completion and opening sometime in 2025.

Project officials provided media with a technical briefing earlier today, giving greater detail on the years-long construction process to come.

Traffic disruptions have already been occurring for several weeks at the intersection of Main Street and Broadway for the bridge-like traffic deck being installed over the span of the city block, which will allow for the excavation and construction of Mount Pleasant Station below it. These disruptions with reduced lanes will continue for about six months, until the deck is complete to establish four temporary travel lanes over the construction site.

The four other new subway stations along Broadway — Broadway-City Hall, Oak-VGH, South Granville, and Arbutus — will also each have four-lane traffic decks spanning a block or more over the station construction site, replicating street level. Traffic deck installation and excavation at these other stations will begin later this year.

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Artistic rendering of the traffic deck installation and excavation for the Millennium Line platforms at Broadway-City Hall Station. (Government of BC)

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Artistic rendering of the Millennium Line station structure construction process at Broadway-City Hall Station, an interchange to the Canada Line. (Government of BC)

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Traffic deck installation process for Broadway-City Hall Station. (Government of BC)

Also slated to begin later in 2021 is the construction of the 700-metre-long elevated guideway between VCC-Clark Station and the tunnel entrance immediately north of Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

Over at Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station, north of the intersection of Thornton Street and Great Northern Way, excavation is well underway on the tunnel boring machine pit, which will double as the footprint of the subway station.

In the middle of 2022, two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) will begin digging the tunnels from Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station towards Arbutus Station.

Both TBMs are identical with a width of six metres (20 ft) and a length of 100 metres (328 ft). They are expected to dig and complete the tunnel ring structure at a rate of about 18 metres (60 ft) per day, with an average depth of about 15 metres (49 ft) and a maximum depth of 20 metres (66 ft) at Broadway-City Hall Station to travel beneath the Canada Line tunnel.

After the TBMs pass through a station pit, construction work will begin on the station structure and interiors will advance.

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Artistic rendering of the Broadway Subway’s elevated guideway in the False Creek Flats. (Government of BC)

broadway subway elevated guideway

Artistic rendering of the Broadway Subway’s elevated guideway in the False Creek Flats. (Government of BC)

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Artistic rendering of the 700-metre-long elevated guideway in the False Creek Flats for the SkyTrain Broadway Extension. (Government of BC)

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Broadway Subway’s tunnel boring machine extraction pit at Cypress Street. (Government of BC)

Tunnel boring is expected to reach completion in the middle of 2023 at the intersection of Cypress Street and Broadway — about a block east of the station. Arbutus Station is the only station that will not see the TBMs travel through it; the two blocks between Arbutus Street and Cypress Street will be the footprint of the station and a major track switch that allows for the reverse direction of the trains from the Millennium Line’s new westernmost terminus station. The TBMs will be disassembled and lifted out of the ground from a pit at Cypress Street.

To prepare for the future extension to reach the UBC campus, a short segment of twin tunnels will be mined on the west side of Arbutus Station.

Major construction of Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station will begin after tunnel boring reaches completion.

Last year, the provincial government selected a private consortium composed of Spanish engineering giant Acciona and Italian tunneller Ghella as the project’s design-build contractor. This means any delays and unexpected costs — including any issues arising from tunnel boring — will be covered by the contractor, not the provincial government.

This is the complete scheduled timeline of the subway’s construction:

  • Spring 2021-early 2022: construction of traffic decking in station blocks on Broadway.
  • 2021-23: elevated guideway construction to connect with VCC-Clark Station.
  • Mid-2022: assembly and launch of the tunnel boring machines.
  • Summer 2022-mid 2023: tunnel boring machines arrive at stations on Broadway.
  • Summer 2023: tunnel-boring machines disassembled/removed near Arbutus Station.
  • 2023-24: construction of station structures and interiors.
  • 2024: removal of traffic decking and restoration of roads and streetscape.
  • 2024: installation of tracks.
  • 2025: testing of train operating system and grand opening.

2021: Geotechnical, building demolition, utilities removal, cycling detours, traffic decks, and excavation.

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Broadway Subway construction process, 2021 (Government of BC)

2022: Excavation, tunnel boring, and elevated guideway.

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Broadway Subway construction process, 2022 (Government of BC)

2023: Tunnel boring, elevated guideway, and stations.

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Broadway Subway construction process, 2023 (Government of BC)

2024: Stations and train testing.

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Broadway Subway construction process, 2024 (Government of BC)

2025: Stations, train testing, and opening.

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Broadway Subway construction process, 2025 (Government of BC)

Roadway disruptions between the station construction sites will be non-existent or minimal; however, the curbside lanes used for parking will be repurposed over longer periods for bus-only lanes to help ensure the 99 B-Line and No. 9 buses remain reliable.

The use of tunnel boring through the busy corridor and surface construction only at station construction sites avoids the controversial and disruptive construction practices associated with the Canada Line on Cambie Street, which was trenched for years for the cut-and-cover construction method.

Upon opening, it will be a 12-minute trip from Arbutus Station to Commercial-Broadway Station, and about 47 minutes to reach Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam on a one-train ride.

Until the Millennium Line is further extended westward, the remaining journey to UBC will be accomplished by a shortened 99 B-Line route starting at the new bus loop at Arbutus Station. Broadway-City Hall Station will serve as a major interchange hub between the Millennium Line and Canada Line.

Over time after the subway is complete, large publicly owned staging sites next to the stations will be developed, with project officials asserting that single-storey station entrance buildings could see floors above as part of an adjacent development. Such development forms would be similar to Cambie Star over King Edward Station.

The project’s cost is $2.83 billion, with $1.83 billion from the provincial government, $897 million from the federal government, and $100 million from the City of Vancouver in the form of land provided for the stations.

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Diagram showing the interchange hub between the Millennium Line and Canada Line at Broadway-City Hall Station. (Government of BC)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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