Canadian Consulting Engineer

Tunnels for Vancouver’s airport transit line reach waterfront

The new transit line under construction in Vancouver hit a milestone March 2, when a 440-tonne tunnel boring machin...

March 3, 2008   Canadian Consulting Engineer

The new transit line under construction in Vancouver hit a milestone March 2, when a 440-tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) broke through the ground at the site of the Waterfront Station near False Creek.
The tunnel breakthrough is the second of two side-by-side tunnels that run from just south of False Creek to north of Pender Street in downtown Vancouver. The 2.5-kilometre tunnel is one section of a line that stretches 19 kilometres in total, and will carry a rapid transit link from Vancouver’s downtown to the suburb of Richmond and Vancouver Airport. Costing an estimated $1.9 billion, the line involves 16 stations, two bridges, and approximately 19 kilometres of tunnel.
A consortium known as InTransit BC, led by SNC-Lavalin with financial partners, won a competition for the Canada Line project back in 2002. InTransit BC is not only designing and building the light rapid transit line, but will operate and maintain it for 35 years. Jean-Marc Arbaud of SNC-Lavalin is president and CEO of InTransit B.C. The project is being financed the federal and provincial governments, Translink, the city of Vancouver and the Vancouver Airport Authority.
Some 20,000 prefabricated concrete segments were used to line the tunnels, which are 5.3 metres in internal diameter. The depth of the tunnel, which passes under False Creek, varies between 10 and 30 metres.
This is the first time an earth-pressure-balance tunnel boring machine has been used in B.C. It excavated 140,000 cubic metres of material. InTransit BC assumed 100% of the geotechnical risk of the project. The tunnel boring operation was a joint venture of SNC-Lavalin with Seli, an Italian company that specializes in TBMs.
Upon the breakthrough of the tunnel, Premier Gordon Campbell congratulated the workers for their “hard work and dedication, and for completing this critical phase of the Canada Line without a single lost-time injury or accident.” (There had been controversy over the use of low-paid, non-union foreign workers on the tunnel in 2006.)
Premier Campbell went on to say, “This transit expansion will help to encourage compact urban development, get people out of their cars, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the benefit of all British Columbians.
Now the tunnels along 2nd Avenue are completed, the construction of the Waterfront Station will proceed. The line is scheduled to be open by late 2009.
“The Canada Line and the planned UBC Line are key pieces in achieving our public transportation goals for Vancouver,” said Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan. “Fast, accessible transit with easy connections is one of the most important ways we can do our part in reducing urban sprawl while lowering our ecological footprint.”


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