Massive tunnel-digging machines near finish line for Mississauga LRT project

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Published September 28, 2023 at 10:45 am

ECWE tunnel digging
Two massive tunnel-boring machines are creating the tunnels for the ECWE LRT. (Photo: Metrolinx)

Two huge tunnel-digging machines are now in the stretch run and on target to complete their work on time for a major new light-rail transit (LRT) route in east Mississauga that will further connect Canada’s seventh-largest city with Toronto.

The pair of tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) that went into the ground in early and mid-2022 in east Mississauga to dig out the underground portion of the 9.2-kilometre Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE) are on schedule to get the job done by end of this year or early 2024, according to project leaders.

Nicknamed Renny and Rexy, the huge TBMs move eastward toward the finish line at a rate of 10 to 15 metres per day, officials with Metrolinx say. The cutterheads alone on each of the TBMs weigh about 65 tonnes.

Metrolinx is the provincial agency in charge of the massive LRT extension, which is expected to open for business in 2030-31.

The underground portion of the ECWE is pegged at just over six kilometres in length.

The latest word from Metrolinx is that Renny, which launched in early 2022, has tunnelled 4.22 kilometres to date while Rexy checks in at 3.95 kilometres (see map below). Rexy began its work in July 2022.

Map shows the distance the two tunnel-boring machines have travelled so far (green line) and how far they’ve yet to go (black line). (Map: Metrolinx)

As part of an earlier ECWE update, project leaders posted a short video to social media that shows how the tunnels are being built (see below).

The $729-million ECWE is an above ground/underground route that will further link east Mississauga with parts of west Toronto when it opens by the beginning of the next decade.

It will extend the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Toronto west to Renforth Drive in east Mississauga.

proposal to extend the ECWE an additional 4.7 kilometres from Renforth Drive to Pearson Airport in Mississauga is also being strongly considered.

Residents got a look in early August at what part of the LRT route might look like when it takes its first passengers in another eight years or so.

Project leaders revealed at an Aug. 2 open house early designs of the transit stations along the new line.

The route’s westernmost station will be located at Renforth Drive in Mississauga. Officials say it will serve as a transit hub, connecting to MiWay routes 7, 39, 100, 107 and 109, GO bus routes 19 and 40, and TTC routes 32 and 112.

Meanwhile, one recent construction milestone can perhaps best be described as “connect the tunnels.”

Project leaders say an important part of the effort recently got underway as work crews are busy building nine “cross passages” that will connect the two huge east-west tunnels that will carry the passenger trains as they travel underground.

“Cross passages are small passageways that connect the eastbound and westbound tunnels. They’re used for maintenance and emergencies,” project leaders said in a recent online update.

Map shows future location of the Renforth Drive ECWE station in Mississauga. (Image: Metrolinx)

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