Holey Moley! The big dig has finally started

Holey Moley, it's finally happening.

Friday marked the official launch of the first of four tunnel-boring machines that will dig the route for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. After a 25-year wait, work to build the $2.4 billion subway line connecting York University and York Region with the city of Toronto is now underway.

The start of work on the route was marked with a gathering of representatives from all levels of government. Sitting among the dignitaries were York Professor Tom Cohen and City of Vaughan resident Rose Rinella, winners of a Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) contest to name the giant earth eaters.

Above: As TTC Chair Karen Stintz looks on, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford congratulates York history Professor Tom Cohen for suggesting the names Holey and Moley for two of the tunnel-boring machines that will be used to build the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension

“I would like to acknowledge two very important people who are here with us today – Tom Cohen and Rosa Rinella,” said TTC Chair Karen Stintz, “They are the successful winners of the tunnel-boring machine naming contest. Tom came up with the names Holey and Moley, which are actually very appropriate because it is a phrase that I use frequently at the TTC – ‘Holey-moley, they did what!’ ‘Holey-moley, they did that?’”

Stintz noted, to hoots and hollers from the crowd, that the project is proceeding on time and on budget.

“I am delighted to be here today as I am about to deliver some ‘boring’ remarks,” joked  Peter Kent, federal minister of the environment. “The Toronto-York Spadina Subway extension will cut commute times, ease traffic congestion and result in cleaner air, thereby improving the quality of life for Greater Toronto Area residents.”

Above: Federal Minister of the Environment Peter Kent talks about the collaborative effort among all levels of government to build the subway extension. Looking on are, from left: Karen Stintz, TTC chair; Ontario Minister of Transportation Kathleen Wynne; Toronto Mayor Rob Ford; York Region Chair and CEO Bill Fisch; York Professor Tom Cohen; City of Vaughan resident Rosa Rinella and York Centre MPP Monte Kwinter.

Kent noted the project is a true example of collaboration as the cost was shared by the federal, provincial, regional and municipal governments. “The project will help more people travel without relying on cars,” said Kent. “For the students at York University, it means an easier trip to campus, no parking fees and faster connections to the rest of Toronto. The project lays the foundation for future sustainable growth to York Region.”

Above: Signing a piece of history

His comments were echoed by Kathleen Wynne, Ontario’s minister of transportation. “By extending the subway to York Region, we make it easier for people to get to work and home again, while reducing emissions,” she said, noting that some 2,000 buses enter York University’s Keele campus every day.

Right: Holey at work

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford expressed his excitement for the project. “I love subways!” he said. “The start of the tunnel boring is an important step as part of our strategy to build a transportation city. The subway extension will bring the benefits of rapid transit to residents and businesses in the northwest part of Toronto and will provide a vital link between Toronto and its neighbour, York Region.”

Following official comments, the group signed one of the concrete enclosures and flipped the switch to launch Holey into action.

As the ground shook, Cohen looked around and summed it up. “We are finally moving from sprawl to smart,” he said. “This is so good for York University, its students, faculty and staff and what a lark I’ve had being a part of this story.”

By Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor