Tunnel boring machines for Broadway Subway to arrive in Vancouver this spring

Jan 25 2022, 1:03 am

Twin tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will be used to build the two tunnels for SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension are set to arrive in Vancouver sometime this spring.

BC minister of state for infrastructure Bowinn Ma says the giant machines passed the factory acceptance testing stage this week.

Both machines are identical in size, with a width of six metres (20 ft) and a length of 100 metres (328 ft).

They are expected to dig and complete the concrete 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 in order to dive under the Canada Line tunnel.

broadway subway skytrain tunnel boring machines tbm

Tunnel boring machines (TBMs) for the Broadway Subway of extending SkyTrain Millennium Line. (Bowinn Ma/Twitter)

broadway subway skytrain tunnel boring machines tbm

Tunnel boring machines (TBMs) for the Broadway Subway of extending SkyTrain Millennium Line. (Bowinn Ma/Twitter)

These TBMs will complete a five-kilometre-long segment of tunnel, travelling from the tunnel boring pit north of the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street, which doubles as the subway footprint of the Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station.

The progress on excavating and preparing the tunnel boring pit is now highly advanced to meet the schedule of assembling and launching the machines from the site in the middle of 2022.

Following tradition, upon arrival, the TBMs are expected to be named.

Between Summer 2022 and the middle of 2023, the TBMs will travel through the excavated subway station boxes along Broadway, made possible by the installation of temporary road decks to allow for excavation and station construction beneath flowing vehicle traffic.

By Summer 2023, if all goes as planned, the tunnel boring machines will arrive at the extraction pit at the intersection of West Broadway and Cypress Street, just east of Arbutus Station, where they will be removed and disassembled.

skytrain broadway subway great northern way emily carr station tunnel boring tbm january 15 2021

Tunnel boring pit being excavated at the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street, which doubles as the footprint of Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station. Construction progress as of January 15, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

skytrain broadway subway great northern way emily carr station tunnel boring tbm january 15 2021

Tunnel boring pit being excavated at the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street, which doubles as the footprint of Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station. Construction progress as of January 15, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

skytrain broadway subway great northern way emily carr station tunnel boring tbm january 15 2021

Tunnel boring pit being excavated at the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street, which doubles as the footprint of Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station. Construction progress as of January 15, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

About 700 metres of the project between the existing VCC-Clark Station and Emily Carr University for Art and Design campus will run on an elevated guideway, transitioning into a tunnel portal just before Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station.

The entire project carries a cost of $2.83 billion, with $1.73 billion going towards the private contractor consortium led by Spanish engineering giant Acciona and Italian tunneller Ghella.

Ghella selected German tunnel boring machine equipment manufacturer Herrenknecht as its supplier for this project.

skytrain broadway subway great northern way emily carr station tunnel boring tbm january 15 2021

Tunnel boring pit being excavated at the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street, which doubles as the footprint of Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station. Construction progress as of January 15, 2022. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

great northern way-emily carr station broadway subway tunnel boring

Artistic rendering of the Broadway Subway’s tunnel boring staging area at the intersection of Great Northern Way and Thornton Street, where Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station will be located. (Government of BC)

Upon opening in 2025, the Broadway Extension of the Millennium Line will enable a one-train ride of 11 minutes from Arbutus Station to Commercial-Broadway Station, and 47 minutes from Arbutus Station to Lafarge Lake-Douglas Station in Coquitlam City Centre. It is expected to see 130,000 boardings daily.

However, the subway is not the region’s first tunnel boring project since the completion of the Millennium Line Evergreen Extension in 2016.

Metro Vancouver Regional District’s water supply projects have used smaller TBMs to fulfill the needs of the Port Mann Water Supply Tunnel and Second Narrows Water Supply Tunnel, and boring will start next year on the Annacis Water Supply Tunnel.

In late 2022, the regional district will also start construction on a new water supply tunnel deep under Stanley Park to establish a new replacement connection to the North Shore, but it will use a construction method other than tunnel boring.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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