TORONTO – The trek deep below street level and one kilometre into the Eglinton Crosstown tunnel can be a daunting one.
There won’t be an LRT along Eglinton for another six years if everything stays on track. Right now, it’s a rickety “man-car” carrying a handful of media and crews heading in for work.
At the end of the line, as it stands right now, is one of two tunnel boring machines (TBMs) slowly creeping eastward at 10 to 12 metres a day on average. The 511,000 kilogram machines started burrowing through in June 2013 at Black Creek Drive and are now approaching Caledonia Road.
The Metrolinx project includes a 19-kilometre transit corridor, including a 10-kilometre underground portion, with service set to begin in 2020.
While the TBM’s remove “muck” and ship it back along conveyor belts toward the entrance to be collected, large precast concrete rings are installed on the interior walls like pieces in a very large puzzle.
“You do that 2110 times and we’re at Allen road.,” engineer Gary Kramer said. “The tunnel boring machine is 10 metres long. That includes all the drive motors, the cutter head and everything like that.”
Watch: Chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat talks about increasing density in Toronto and why the Eglinton Crosstown is important.
When the machines reach Allen road., they will be extracted from the ground to allow TTC subway service along the University line to continue. The TBMs will then be reinstalled just east of that location.
The amount of dirt removed from the tunnels over the course of the entire project will be enough to fill the Air Canada Centre to the height of the CN Tower.
Navigating the path for the future LRT isn’t as simple as following a straight line. A small group of operators, engineers and inspectors are always in a small booth close by, monitoring the route mapped out in advance while watching a number of screens.
“We see all the parameters of the machine, pressures, jacks, cylinders. You name it, it’s all here,” crew member Vitali Kolnik said.
Watch: Previous Global News stories on the Eglinton Crosstown.
While the operation underground continues, managing disruptions for drivers and the communities along Eglinton Avenue will be an ongoing challenge for Metrolinx. Work has started at a variety of locations, in advance of the tunnels reaching those points.
“We’re building underground stations,” says Metrolinx Community Relations Manager Jamie Robinson. “So we’ve got to do utility relocates. We’ve got to shift traffic.”
Digging the tunnels along Eglinton Avenue from Laird drive west to Yonge Street is scheduled to begin late in 2014.
All four TBMs will eventually meet at Yonge Street, where they will be extracted and final preparations for service will begin.