Major construction now officially underway on $2.8-billion Broadway Subway

May 13 2021, 8:51 pm

Major construction on the SkyTrain extension along the Broadway Corridor, a project first envisioned over two decades ago, is officially underway as of today.

Demolition, site preparation, and utilities relocation work began months ago, but construction activity at these sites is only now beginning.

The subway is a continuous westward extension of the existing Millennium Line from VCC-Clark Station to a new terminus station at Arbutus Street. Six underground stations will be built along the 5.7-km-long route, including a major interchange hub to the Canada Line at Broadway-City Hall Station.

“This is an exciting milestone for a critical infrastructure project that will transform the way people travel in and around the Broadway corridor and create good-paying jobs to support BC’s economic recovery,” said Rob Fleming, BC Minster of Transportation and Infrastructure, in a statement.

“Investments in public transit infrastructure are crucial to improving commute times, reducing carbon pollution and laying the foundation for strong economic growth.”

broadway subway broadway extension skytrain millennium line november 2020 map

SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension map. (Government of BC)

oak vgh station skytrain broadway extension

SkyTrain Oak-VGH Station design concept, April 2021. (Government of BC)

vgh oak station broadway subway

Oak-VGH Station on the SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension (Broadway Subway). (Government of BC)

Today’s announcement was also accompanied with new details on the construction staging and timeline of the project.

Unlike the disruptive construction practices associated with the Canada Line, much of the subway’s construction will be taken off roads to reduce disruptions as much as possible.

Construction will begin on a traffic deck at Mount Pleasant Station (intersection of Main Street and East Broadway), which involves drilling and placing vertical support columns to support steel plates for a road deck that allows vehicles to continue travelling over the station while excavation and construction occurs underground.

Temporary traffic decks will be built at all station construction sites, and there will be more disruptions during the construction process for this roadway.

Later in 2021, construction will also start on the 700-metre elevated guideway in the False Creek Flats between VCC-Clark Station and the tunnel portal that leads into Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station (intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street).

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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)

arbutus station tunnel boring machine removal

Artistic rendering of the tunnel boring machine removal process at Arbutus Station. (Government of BC)

Apart from station construction and the False Creek Flats elevated guideway, the subway will be built using a pair of tunnel boring machines, which greatly reduces the impact to vehicle traffic and area businesses and residents when contrasted with the Canada Line’s cut-and-cover approach on Cambie Street.

In 2022, both tunnel boring machines will have a staggered launch from Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station, which will have its pit double as the staging area for boring activities.

In an effort to reduce disruptions as much as possible, large areas of properties adjacent or near stations have been acquired and demolished to provide off-road construction staging and storage space over the coming years, including at Mount Pleasant Station, Oak-VGH Station (intersection with Laurel Street), South Granville Station (intersection with Granville Street and West Broadway), and Arbutus Station.

Broadway-City Hall Station’s staging and storage area takes up an entire city-owned block, where the existing Canada Line station entrance is located.

Some of the staging areas surrounding Arbutus Station will double as a new bus loop for the 99 B-Line.

These staging and storage sites will be developed at some point in the future after subway construction, with the potential for integration with the station entrance buildings.

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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)

SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension Subway Broadway-City Hall Station

October 2019 preliminary conceptual cross-section artistic rendering of Broadway-City Hall Station’s interchange between the Millennium Line and existing Canada Line. (Government of BC)

Two lanes of traffic will be maintained in each direction for buses and other vehicles at the station construction sites, except for Mount Pleasant Station due to the narrower street width. Along other areas of Broadway on the subway route, three lanes of traffic in each direction will generally be retained, including one lane each way for buses.

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.

Three trolley bus routes — No. 14 Hastings/Downtown/UBC, No. 16 29th Avenue Station/Arbutus, and No. 17 Oak/Downtown — temporarily relocated to 12th Avenue will be rerouted to their original routes when the subway reaches completion. The 99 B-Line will continue operating on Broadway, and the No. 9 Alma/Granville/Commercial-Broadway/Boundary will remain on its existing route using diesel buses instead of trolleys.

mount pleasant station construction may 2021

Site preparation and storage area next to Mount Pleasant Station, May 2021. (Government of BC)

Upon opening in 2025, the Broadway Extension is expected to see 130,000 passengers per day — more than twice the ridership of the existing 99 B-Line.

Through the acquisition of additional SkyTrain cars in time for the opening, the Millennium Line’s capacity will increase to 3.5 times the capacity of the existing buses along Broadway. The travel time from Arbutus Station to Commercial-Broadway Station will be just 12 minutes, and about 47 minutes to Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam on a one-train ride with no transfers.

Until the Millennium Line is further extended westward to UBC, the remaining journey to the campus will be made by a truncated 99 B-Line route from the Arbutus Station bus loop. TransLink anticipates the 99 B-Line will reach capacity at peak hours in 2025 when the subway opens.

Both Broadway-City Hall and Arbutus stations are expected to be some of the region’s busiest SkyTrain stations.

“As we continue to welcome more customers back to transit, the Broadway Subway Project’s groundbreaking marks a major milestone in the development of our regional transportation network,” said Gigi Chen-Kuo, interim CEO, TransLink.

“This extension will help reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions, while better connecting the region with an excellent transportation option for our customers.”

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South Granville Station on the SkyTrain Millennium Line Broadway Extension (Broadway Subway). (Government of BC)

The project will cost $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.

Provincial crown corporation Transportation Investment Corporation is leading the project’s construction on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. A private consortium comprised of Spanish engineering giant Acciona and Italian tunneller Ghella was selected in 2020 as the project’s contractor.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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