An underground solution for replacing aging infrastructure

By District Staff on Wednesday, May 17, 2023

A significant infrastructure replacement construction project is happening along Mountain Highway. But you won’t get a real glimpse of the scale or complexity of the work or how it is progressing, even if you drive on the road every day. 

That’s because crews are using underground micro-tunnelling technology to replace the trunk sewer between East 24th Street and East 18th Street. It’s the first time this type of construction method has been used for a project in the District.

“Micro-tunneling is a much less disruptive method; we're mainly underground,” says Richard Burberry, project manager.

Traditional construction methods would require large excavation machinery digging up the road to create deep trenches – known as cut-and-cover.

“The impact on the residents, the impact on traffic – it’s all significantly less with this trenchless tunnelling, which hopefully makes life a lot easier for everyone in the community.”  

Sunshine beams through a large yellow crane in the background. In the foreground a large, circular cement shaft is visible.

How it works

The micro-tunnelling method uses  a boring machine to excavate an underground tunnel.

Once the launch shaft construction is complete, the machine begins to work its way toward its destination as new sections of sewer pipe are installed along the way.

This method will only require three excavations along the entire sewer route: one for the entrance at East 20th Street, and two exits, at East 18th Street and East 24th Street. At the exits, traditional excavation methods will be used to connect the new trunk sewer to the existing sanitary drainage.

Recent projects completed by Metro Vancouver have shown micro-tunnelling to be less disruptive and less expensive than traditional excavation methods.

“If we used traditional methods, it would require trenches up to 10 metres deep, and we’d likely have to go single lane, alternating traffic and find the detour route for the other lane to have the space required to do the construction,” says Burberry.

The micro-tunnelling work under Mountain Highway began at the beginning of April, and the project's target completion date is fall 2023.     

Three large-diametre sections of circular piping sit stacked with a large yellow crane in the background.

Future-proofing community assets

Managing assets is a key part of how the District considers infrastructure’s future costs and risks, makes informed decisions and ensures the affordability and sustainability of important services. The aging trunk sewer along Mountain Highway was built in 1964 and has reached the end of its service life. The new sewer is being constructed with a larger pipe to increase capacity to meet current and future demands in the area. This significant piece of infrastructure is responsible for carrying sanitary waste for approximately 21,000 area residents.

Progress report

We will provide regular updates on the progress of the underground tunnelling and pipe laying for duration of this project.

Check the current progress and learn more about the Lynn Valley trunk sewer project

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