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First boring machine for Broadway Subway reaches end of tunnel at Arbutus Station

The first of two tunnel boring machines building Vancouver’s Broadway Subway has made its final breakthrough in its journey at Cypress Street, reaching the pit of Arbutus Station.

The Daily Hive reported that the news of the breakthrough was announced through the Broadway Subway Project Office, that the Herrenknecht tunnel boring machine (TBM) named Phyllis arrived at the Arbutus Station pit on March 20, 2024.

This represents the completion of the tunnel boring process for SkyTrain Millennium Line’s Broadway Extension’s westbound tunnel.

Phyllis began boring her last segment between stations on February 2, 2024, when she resumed her dig from the Granville Street wall of South Granville Station. It took her 50 days to travel the four city block segment from Granville Street to Cypress Street.

The Arbutus Station pit is two blocks long between Cypress Street and Arbutus Street, with the eastern block between Cypress Street and Maple Street used for a major track switch enabling trains to turn around from the terminus station, and the western block between Maple Street and Arbutus Street used for the subway station structure itself.

Elsie, the other TBM, responsible for building the eastbound tunnel, is also now closing in to break through the wall at Cypress Street.

Elsie resumed her dig from South Granville Street on March 5, 2024 and could reach Cypress Street by the end of April 2024.

When Elsie makes her final breakthrough later this spring, this will represent the conclusion of the Broadway Subway’s tunnel boring process by Italian tunneling company Ghella, which partnered with Acciona Infrastructure Canada to build the project.

Both tunnel boring machines first began their journey with a staggered launch weeks apart in Fall 2022 from the tunnel boring staging pit at the intersection of Thornton Street and Great Northern Way, which doubles as the pit for Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station.

Tunnel boring was originally scheduled to reach completion in late 2023 to maintain the project’s schedule of reaching completion and opening in early 2026.

It is known that the remaining work on the project cannot fully advance until tunnel boring reaches completion, including the construction of the subway station structures, and tracks and equipment within the lengths of tunnel.

The extension was originally scheduled to open by late 2025, but it was announced in November 2022 that this timeline was delayed by a few weeks into early 2026 due to the Spring 2022 labor dispute of Lower Mainland concrete workers, which postponed the start of tunnel boring from Summer 2022 to Fall 2022.

Elsie was originally the lead TBM, before being passed by Phyllis at around the mid-way digging point at Broadway-City Hall Station toward the middle of 2023.

Compared to other station pit pass-throughs, both machines also experienced a much longer maintenance dormancy and boring pace at Broadway-City Hall Station in the late spring and early summer of 2023. Extra precautions were put in place before boring beneath the Canada Line tunnel underneath Cambie Street.

Upon opening, Broadway-City Hall Station will become one of the region’s busiest SkyTrain stations, as it will be transformed into a seamless interchange hub between the Millennium Line and Canada Line.

The $2.8 billion, 5.7-km-long extension of the Millennium Line will add six subway stations to the SkyTrain network. A length of five km is underground, but there is also a 700-metre-long elevated segment between the existing VCC-Clark Station and the tunnel portal just before Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station.

Later in 2024, major construction work will also begin on the 16-km-long, eight-station Surrey-Langley Extension of SkyTrain Expo Line, which is scheduled to reach completion by late 2028 at a cost of $4 billion. The Broadway Extension and Surrey-Langley Extension will mark the first time the major construction work timelines of two SkyTrain extension projects overlap. With the Broadway Extension and Surrey-Langley Extension, the SkyTrain network will reach a milestone length of more than 100 km.

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