LRT tunnel finally makes connection, mayor announces

The massive machines boring Ottawa's 2.5-kilometre light rail tunnel have finally met in the middle, the mayor announced Thursday.

Excavation on track for completion by end of February, city says

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson shared a photo of tunnel on Twitter Thursday. (Twitter)

The massive machines boring Ottawa's 2.5-kilometre light rail tunnel have finally met in the middle, the mayor announced Thursday.

Jim Watson gave the update at the National Capital Commission board meeting Thursday morning. 

"There is still obviously a lot of work to do in terms of fitting up the stations. But it was great news when ... the two sides came together and opened up," said Watson, a non-voting member of the board.

The first tunnel connection — a small "punch-through" — actually occurred Dec. 28, according to Steve Cripps, the city's director of O-Train construction. 

"The picture tweeted by the Mayor shows the opening as it was completed this week. Complete tunnel excavation is on track for the end of February 2017," Cripps said.

Excavation delayed by sinkhole

The excavation was delayed for weeks after a sinkhole formed on Rideau Street last June. It swallowed three lanes of the road and caused millions of dollars of damage.

It forced the closure of Rideau Street to all traffic from October to December while crews worked around the clock to reinforce the ground so the final 20 metres of the tunnel could be completed. 
Water fills the sinkhole that formed on Rideau Street on June 8, 2016. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Despite the setback, the city said last month it still expects the entire $2.1-billion project to be finished on time.

Meanwhile engineers started testing the first of Ottawa's light rail vehicles on a section of track between Blair and Cyrville stations in December.

The Confederation Line is expected to be up and running in 2018.

The city began testing Ottawa's new LRT vehicles in December 2016. (Steve Fischer/CBC News)