Tunnel-digging machine doing the dirty work for more than a year on Mississauga LRT line


Published April 20, 2023 at 9:58 am

The first of two tunnel-boring machines, dubbed "Renny", is shown (bottom of photo) at the very beginning of its underground journey just over one year ago. (Photo: Metrolinx)

What a distance a year makes.

It was just over one year ago, on April 11, 2022, when the first of two massive tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) started digging its way from the eastern edges of Mississauga toward its west Toronto destination as work continued on a major light rail transit (LRT) line that will further connect the two cities within the next eight years.

“Renny,” as the first TBM was named (the other is “Rexy”), has travelled more than 3.5 kilometres since then as it helps dig out the underground portion of the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE). Its journey is more than half-way complete.

Meanwhile, “Rexy” has completed more than 2.8 kilometres of its subterranean trip after going into the ground last July.

Together, the TBMs have so far cleared more than half-a-million tonnes of earth and rock out of the way as they go about their daily chore of completing the key section of the LRT extension.

When completed, the 9.2-kilometre ECWE will bring the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Toronto west to Renforth Dr. in east Mississauga by 2030-31 and deliver some 37,000 daily rides to passengers.

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

Project leaders at Metrolinx say the TBMs, shipped in pieces from Germany in late 2021, typically collect about 2,000 tonnes of earth and rock per day as they move at a rate of 10 to 15 metres daily.

Tunnel work is expected to take about 20 months, according to Metrolinx, putting things on track to be completed by the end of this year or early 2024.

“Once they reach their destination just west of Scarlett Rd. (Toronto), they will be dismantled and removed from the ground through an extraction shaft,” say officials with Metrolinx, adding part of Eglinton Ave. needs to be moved a short distance south to make way for the extraction shaft. “This shaft is also the portal for where the trains will transition between the tunnel and the elevated guideway.”

When finished, the ECWE will operate underground from Renforth Dr. in Mississauga to just west of Scarlett Rd. in Toronto, where it will then transition to a 1.5-km elevated section that runs east of Jane St. before heading underground again and connecting to the future Mount Dennis Station.

Metrolinx officials said recently that they’re taking steps to get the line up and running ahead of schedule.

While the ECWE remains on schedule for a 2030-31 opening to passengers, officials told residents at an ECWE open house in March that as they seek to keep construction noise to a minimum, they may be able to move the project along faster.

Map shows the tunnelling progress of “Renny” and “Rexy”. (Metrolinx)

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