B.C. government confirms Acciona-Ghella will start building Broadway Subway this fall

No commitments have yet been made to extend the rapid-transit line to UBC

broadway commuters -rk
Commuters have long been calling for rapid transit along Broadway | BIV files

Construction on the Broadway Subway between VCC-Clark Station and Arbutus Station is set to start this fall with service starting in 2025, B.C. Premier John Horgan confirmed on September 3. Six new underground stations are to be built to make transportation easier and more affordable along the Broadway corridor, which is said to be the second-largest employment centre in B.C. with more than 85,000 jobs.

The contract with the Acciona-Ghella joint venture to be known as Broadway Subway Project Corp. is to design, construct and partially finance the Broadway Subway, and is valued at $1.728 billion. Construction will begin in fall 2020, with the line in service in 2025.

News that European consortium Acciona-Ghella will design, build and partially finance the project was released in July. The expectation was also that the start of construction would be imminent, but the announcement today makes clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has not prompted any delay.

"Certainly the time to invest in infrastructure is now, without any doubt," Horgan said at a press conference.

"The job creation opportunities that were touched upon by some of the speakers are in the thousands, the opportunity to reduce emissions to meet our greenhouse-gas targets for our CleanBC programs is profound and buildling the new infrastructure is critically important."

When asked, Horgan would not confirm that constuction on the rapid-transit line would continue past Arbutus Street, and all the way to UBC, but he said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has been reminding him of the importance of that extension. 

Stewart seemed unfazed that the announcement did not include a confirmation that the line will eventually travel to UBC.

"Can you believe what's happening here today?" he asked. "We are starting on the Broadway Subway. This is just totally amazing, and sometimes it's hard to get your head around that this is actually now rolling out. It's just such a great thing. I'm just so excited about it because we've been working on it for a long time."

Spain's Acciona has a 60% stake in the consortium, while Italy's Ghella has a 40% stake. Both global companies have previously collaborated to construct iconic international transport infrastructure such as Scandinavia’s longest railway tunnels for the Norwegian railway authorities, dubbed the Follo Line, as well as the Legacy Way tunnels in Brisbane, Australia, and the Bologna Node on the Milan-Naples high-speed rail section in Italy, according to Acciona.

Acciona is also no stranger to B.C. as it is also active on projects such as the Patullo Bridge replacement.

“This new contract [to build the Broadway Subway] will mark Acciona’s sixth active infrastructure project in B.C.," Carlos Planelles, director for Acciona North America, said in July.

"We are proud to share the trust of the province of B.C., and our team is looking forward to develop further connections with our local partners and communities as Acciona will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in Canada in 2021.”

The complete Acciona-Ghella joint venture team includes the following companies, according to the Vancouver's architecture and engineering firm Dialog:
• Proponent - Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. / Ghella Canada Ltd.;
• Design-build contractor - Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. / Ghella Canada Ltd.;
• Design contractor - IBI Group Professional Services (Canada) Inc. / Dialog BC Architecture Engineering Interior Design Planning Inc. / Mott MacDonald Canada Ltd. / Ingenieria Especializada Obra Civil e Industrial, S.A.;
• Systems integration contractor - Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. / Ghella Canada Ltd. / Parsons Inc.; and
• Tunnel contractor - Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. / Ghella Canada Ltd.

Once the line opens, the commute from VCC-Clark to Arbutus Station is expected to take 11 minutes, saving the average transit commuter almost 30 minutes per day and relieving traffic congestion along Broadway.

"As we restore the economy through B.C.'s restart plan, major infrastructure projects like the Broadway Subway line will be key to our recovery," said Horgan.

"When completed, the Broadway Subway will transform how people get around in Vancouver. It will mean faster travel to work and school, better access to local business and fewer cars on the road."

Transportation Investment Corporation (TI Corp) is leading the delivery of the Broadway Subway Project on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. TI Corp will provide the controls, practices and other oversight that are essential for this complex project, according to the B.C. government.

The project is to be delivered under the province's Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Through the CBA, the project is set to increase training and apprenticeship opportunities, and prioritize hiring locals, Indigenous peoples, women, people with disabilities and other traditionally under-represented groups, including youth, who want to build a career in the skilled trades.

BC Infrastructure Benefits is responsible for implementing the CBA for the project and will be the employer for the majority of the skilled workforce on the project.

The entire Broadway Subway project budget, including the Acciona-Ghella contract and other costs, is $2.83 billion, according to the B.C. government. It is funded and delivered by the B.C. government, with contributions from the Canadian government and the City of Vancouver. The Broadway Subway project is a key part of the rapid transit program in Metro Vancouver's Mayors' Council 10-year vision. That vision is funded by the governments of B.C. and Canada, TransLink and local municipalities.

gkorstrom@biv.com

@GlenKorstrom