Video: Massive tunnel-digging machine starts work on Mississauga transit line


Published August 5, 2022 at 2:58 pm

Video: Massive tunnel-digging machine starts work on Mississauga transit line
The second of two tunnel-boring machines, dubbed "Rexy," started digging this week. (Photo: Metrolinx)

A second massive tunnel-digging machine has begun doing its work on the below-ground segment of a major light rail transit (LRT) route that will further link Mississauga and Toronto.

Project leaders said in an update today (Aug. 5) that the second of two tunnel-boring machines (TBMs) built in Germany specifically for this job started digging away this week on the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE).

A brief video (see below) supplied by Metrolinx shows the second TBM in action as it began its big dig this week.

The first TBM began digging on April 11, shortly after the two huge digging machines that will create the twin tunnels had been assembled.

Together, the TBMs, which were shipped from Germany last December, will carve out a significant portion of the 9.2-kilometre ECWE that, when completed, will bring the Eglinton Crosstown LRT from Toronto west to Renforth Dr. in east Mississauga by 2030-31.

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

The second TBM, dubbed “Rexy,” is seen here digging out the first few inches of the tunnel.

Metrolinx, the provincial agency overseeing the ECWE project, said this week that the first TBM, dubbed “Renny” (for Renforth Station in Mississauga), has already tunnelled more than 650 metres since its April launch.

The 750-tonne TBM travels underground about 10 to 15 metres a day, project leaders say.

“Now it’s Rexy’s turn,” a Metrolinx spokesperson said, referring to the second TBM, whose moniker is a nod to the nearby Rexdale neighbourhood in northwest Toronto.

“There are a few reasons why Rexy and Renny didn’t start tunnelling at the same time,” the spokesperson continued. “One is that the space inside the launch shaft (where the digging machines are lowered in the ground) can only accommodate one TBM launch at a time. At 6.58 metres high and 131 metres long, these are huge machines. Each one is taller than a giraffe and, stood on their ends, a quarter of the height of the CN Tower.”

Additionally, according to Metrolinx, the tunnelling team can learn much from the first TBM’s journey that can then be applied when the second machine starts to dig.

“Rexy and Renny will continue this pattern over the next 20 months. Renny will reach the extraction shaft (the spot where the TBMs are pulled out of the ground) just west of Scarlett Rd. first, with Rexy following behind,” officials said.

The launch shaft for the TBMs took a while to be completed earlier this year. It’s 80 metres long, 20 metres wide and 17 metres deep, which is big enough to hold about 10 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water, project officials said earlier.

“Renny” began its below-ground work back in April. (Photo: Metrolinx)

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.

The TBMs were assembled early this year after component parts had made the cross-Atlantic journey late in 2021.

With much fanfare, key parts of the TBMs arrived from Germany by cargo ship in Hamilton last December. They were then trucked with police escort up the QEW to the east Mississauga work site.

The cutterheads for Rexy and Renny, each weighing some 65 tonnes and measuring 6.5 metres in diameter, arrived at the ECWE tunnel launch site by truck just before Christmas.

They had arrived in Hamilton one week earlier after a cross-Atlantic cargo ship journey of some 11,000 kilometres from Germany that took more than three weeks.

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