Workers have begun digging the first main hole of Ottawa's light rail tunnel at the intersection of Albert and Brickhill streets in Lebreton Flats.

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson held a ceremonial kick-off to the excavation Friday morning. Officials will also hold a briefing on the light rail design and construction Friday afternoon at city hall.

In July, workers began digging the first hole, three metres wide, for the LRT tunnel just one block away at Albert and Commissionaire’s streets.

LRT tunnel construction machines (Oct. 11, 2013)

These machines are being used to dig the tunnel at Brickhill and Albert streets for the light rail tunnel. (Kristy Kirkup/CBC)

Workers call the area the “west portal” to the 2.5-kilometre tunnel. There will be also be holes dug at Queen and Kent streets and in the area of the University of Ottawa.

The city’s schedule said blasting to excavate the ramp of the west portal should be completed this week and excavation with the hoe ram machine was finished Wednesday. Workers continue to remove blasting rock and grubbing.

Building the tunnel is the single largest task of the $2.1 billion LRT project, bringing commuters from the western end of Queen Street to the University of Ottawa.

The City of Ottawa has said work on the tunnel will finish at 6 p.m. every day so residents won’t be disturbed as evening falls.

Residents have said they have become used to noise in the area due to blasting, which has been ongoing in preparation of digging the tunnel.

The city said the tunnel is expected to save 10 to 15 minutes on a daily commute through downtown Ottawa when it's completed in May of 2018.

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