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INTERVIEW – Javier Sanz Mugica, Design-Build Project Director


Javier Sanz Mugia is new to Canada, new to Vancouver and new to the Broadway Subway Project. But he is not new to complex, multi-partner infrastructure projects. He most recently worked as the Construction Director for the Middle East Route 2020 Metro Dubai Project. This project was an extension of the existing metro network by seven stations and 15 km, of which 11.8 km were a viaduct and the remaining 3.2 km was a bored tunnel. We are lucky to have a professional of Javier’s calibre leading the Broadway Subway Project.

Let’s meet him; six questions, for every kilometre of the extension.

1. Can you tell us a bit more about your experience is Dubai? Dubai is very hot. During the five summer months, temperature reaches 50 degrees Celsius. It is difficult to work during the days and much of the project work had to happen in the evenings and early morning hours. I am happy to be in Vancouver where the summer weather is much more temperate. Instead of the heat, we just need to manage the rain. In Dubai, the project was built primarily through the desert. Due to this less urban location, our approach for managing traffic and keeping stakeholders engaged is different than what we are striving to achieve on this Project.

2. The Broadway Subway Project (BSP) will be boring a tunnel under one of the busiest traffic routes in Vancouver. What are the challenges you see ahead? The most challenging part of the project is the urban nature of the excavation zones. This requires us to build unique temporary steel decks 5km along Broadway. Once in place, the temporary steel bridge at each station location along Broadway will provide a stable, four lane traffic configuration over the majority of station construction. This helps ensure predictability for pedestrians, cyclists and road users. An added complexity is planning to complete the majority of work during day and only working at night as required. The urban environment also provides challenges that we will need to to ensure impacts are minimized for residents, businesses and road users.

3. How are the tunnel boring machines being used in the BSP unique? We will be using two identical tunnel boring machines, or TBMs, as we execute a parallel tunnel excavation. This TBM approach accommodates the project ground conditions, and the need to maintain the stability of the tunnel face during excavation and prevent surface settlement. Every machine is tailored for this project with more than a hundred specifications to ensure we comply with the highest safety standards to protect the land above the excavation and the workers inside.

The BSP TBMs are 6-meters in diameter, about the height of a three-level house. They are more than 100 meters long and weigh about 1,000 tons. The tunnels will be excavated about 15 meters below ground with the deepest excavation about 20 meters.

4. Where will the TBMs start their journey? They will be assembled, launched, and maintained during boring operations at the Great Northern Way-Emily Carr Station. The Arbutus Station site is designed to allow the disassembly of the two TBMs.

5. How many boring machine experts does this project require?There will be three TBM drivers per machine for a total of six trained professionals to drive the TBMs at any one time. We anticipate that there will be a crew of about 20 people per machine each shift.

6. TBMs are often named after famous female engineers or scientists. Who is in the running for the Broadway Subway Project TBMs? Naming the twin TBMs will be a milestone for the project that we will celebrate with the Province, our partners, and the public. Like any expectant parents, we have a list of names being considered, but they will be our secret until they are officially christened.

About the Project

The Broadway Subway Project is 5.7 km extension of the Millennium Line, from VCC-Clark Station to Broadway and Arbutus. Once complete, it will provide fast, frequent and convenient SkyTrain service to B.C.’s second largest jobs centre, world-class health services, an emerging innovation and research hub, and growing residential communities.

For further information, please visit the project website page 


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