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Residents affected by boring machine debacle call for compensation as construction persists 2 years on

The boring machine that got stuck beneath a west Toronto neighbourhood for over a year might be freed, but residents say that hasn’t stopped the flow of construction crews from wreaking havoc on their street.

The City of Toronto said things have been progressing well since the machine was retrieved in October, with workers now focused on installing a new maintenance hole, abandoning an old storm sewer and repairing another as part of the original flooding prevention project the boring machine was used for.

But that work has shaken the foundations of nearby homes, left residents overwhelmed by the noise and vibrations and upended the neighbourhood’s sidewalks, according to resident Tanya Boswick — all side effects she said were downplayed by the city.

“Once again, we just continue to be affected by delays and noise and at a much more substantial rate than anybody prepares us for,” she said.

“Frankly, I think that the people living here should be compensated for how much our lives have been upended.”

Calls for property tax reimbursement 

Boswick isn’t alone. John Guglielmo, a resident with support of over 50 others, penned a letter to the City of Toronto and provincial government earlier this month asking to be reimbursed for 50 per cent of 2.5 years of property tax. The letter also calls for an “official apology” that addresses the disruption the neighbourhood experienced as a result of “crucial errors” made by both the city and the contractors in charge of the original project.

While the city has already agreed to investigate how the mistake happened, who is responsible and what can be done to avoid situations like this in the future, Guglielmo said he supports the idea of the auditor general taking a second look.

“There’s one lady who has a baby who’s constantly crying,” he said of his neighbourhood. “People other than me are complaining to the point of asking the city to be moved to a hotel so that they can continue working.”

“Our lives have been changed for almost three years now and we want accountability for what has been going on.”

The boring machine was used to dig a new storm sewer under Old Mill Drive as part of a larger project to limit chronic basement flooding in the area. That work began in March 2022, with the remote-controlled borer meant to carve a 282 metre-long sewer path to a pre-built exit shaft on Bloor Street West. 

Construction workers work on a project next to some residential houses.
Construction crews are pictured Monday working on the original basement flooding project that started in March 2022, but was stalled after a boring machine got ensnarled in nearby steel tiebacks that were part of a different development. (Michael Aitkens/CBC)

But with just seven metres left to go on its route, the machine hit 14 underground steel tiebacks, which had been part of the construction of two nearby condo buildings. It became ensnared in them and then got twisted and turned off course. 

The struggle to remove the tunnel borer has repeatedly pushed back the completion date of the larger project, which was initially expected to cost about $9 million.

The city estimated it would actually cost at least $25 million, but Mika Raisanen, director of design and construction at the city, said the exact number is still being tallied.

City apologizes, says project is on track

Some west-end Toronto residents reported seeing raw sewage and subway noise increasing on their street after the boring machine was removed.

But Raisanen said things are progressing “very well” ever since. Sewer work is on track to be done this spring, with restoration work finished by late spring.

“I think the challenging part is, you know, behind now,” said Raisanen.

While the city apologies for the disruption, Raisanen said it has been monitoring the vibration levels to make sure they don’t exceed safety limits, and using standard construction practices when it comes to everything else.

Raisanen confirmed the city is reviewing a letter from an Old Mill Drive resident and does “plan to respond.”

“Thanks to the community for their patience,” he said.

WATCH Trapped boring machine finally rescued:

Workers have finally freed a trapped boring machine in Toronto

5 months ago

Duration 1:32

A crew has removed the last section of a boring machine that has been trapped under Old Mill Drive for 19 months. The machine was being used to dig up a new storm sewer but became stuck in underground steel tiebacks. People living and working in the area say the year-and-a-half process of removing the machine has been stressful.

Murtaza Haider, a data science and real estate management professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, said it’s up to governments to properly manage resident expectations by communicating transparently and frequently with them — whether a project goes right or wrong.

“Engineering projects are complex. The risks are there, uncertainties are there that will never change. But what could change is better communication … between the clients, between the city staff, contractors and the citizens.”

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