Excavation of second tunnel under Highways 401 and 409 in Ontario complete

Feb. 12, 2021
The tunnels are part of a project that will bring two-way, all-day rail service to GO Transit’s Kitchener corridor.

Work to excavate two tunnels that will serve future GO Transit rail service has been completed. Crews began excavating a second tunnel under Highways 401 and 409, which host some of Canada’s busiest highway traffic across 21 live lanes, in March 2020.

As Metrolinx put it, “There’s light at the end of the tunnel – or middle of the tunnel in this case.”

The twin tunnels are part of the multi-project GO Expansion and they will help deliver all-day, two-way rail service along the Kitchener GO corridor. The province of Ontario says completion of the second tunnel’s excavation marks an achievement in the expansion program to support the “creation of a modern, sustainable rail transit network in the province.”

"This tunnel project will help increase capacity on the Kitchener corridor and, where possible, support all-day trips, in both directions to reduce congestion," said Caroline Mulroney, Ontario Minister of Transportation. "Our goal is to establish a more reliable rail transit system in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which will drive significant economic growth and job creation that will benefit the entire province."

The Highway 401 and 409 Rail Tunnel Project includes a twin tunnel structure and when complete, will provide space for two additional tracks in the future. According to Metrolinx, it was determined the best way to excavate the tunnel was to dig from both ends and meet in the middle by hollowing out the top half of the tunnel first and working toward the median. When the top half was hollowed out, crews started on the bottom half at the ends of the tunnel and worked their way to the median a second time.

"We are delivering on our commitment to bring fast, frequent rail service to Kitchener-Waterloo, Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto," said Kinga Surma, Ontario Associate Minister of Transportation (GTA). "By making these significant infrastructure investments, we will connect more people to jobs and improve passenger convenience, while increasing access to Ontario's fastest growing urban cities along the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor and beyond."

Track, signaling and communications infrastructure will be installed under a separate contract. Substantial completion for the 401 and 409 Rail Tunnel Project is expected to be reached in the second half of 2021.

In 2017, Toronto Tunnel Partners was awarded a C$116.9 million (US$91.88 million) contract by Metrolinx and Infrastructure Ontario to build the two tunnels.

"I want to applaud Toronto Tunnel Partners for their innovative work on the Highway 401 and 409 Rail Tunnel Project, which was constructed under 21 live lanes of traffic," said Infrastructure President and CEO Michael Lindsay. "We are proud to support GO Expansion in the province and deliver system-wide infrastructure upgrades that will enable more frequent service."

Construction on the two tunnels began in July 2019. The first tunnel excavation was completed in August 2020. The excavation of both tunnels involved the removal of approximately 70,000 cubic meters (91,557 cubic yards) of material.

This project is one of more than 20 major projects currently under construction to support the province's GO Rail Expansion program.

"GO Expansion will transform the transportation network in the Greater Golden Horseshoe, allowing for more frequent travel across the region," said Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster. "This announcement and the work on the Kitchener line is a significant milestone which will eventually help get more people out of their cars and onto public transit, leading to a better quality of life for many people."

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.