Work to lay 50 kilometres of pipe for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project is almost half complete in the greater Edmonton area.

Construction began in December 2019. So far 23 kilometres has been laid.

The majority of the pipe being installed around Edmonton will be laid in the Transportation Utility Corridor that follows Anthony Henday Drive.

“Going through the utility corridor is helpful because it’s a known area and there’s a lot of marked areas there,” Trans Mountain spokesperson Ali Hounsell told Global News.

Work can clearly be seen while driving on Anthony Henday Drive.

Several spots like at 111 Street and 50 Street have visible dirt mounds, heavy equipment and, in some cases, pipe being lined up and laid. It’s a similar scene to the west near Terwillegar Drive, where pipe has been sitting above ground for weeks.

The project includes complicated crossings under roadways and the North Saskatchewan River.

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Trans Mountain is using a trenchless construction technique to minimize the need for closing major roads. The company will use horizontal directional drilling (HDD) in thirteen spots to reduce disruption.

Two HDD sites have already been completed, with a third under the the river currently underway. A fourth site at Highway 14 will begin soon.

The work is just the first spread of a multi-stage project spanning 980 kilometres and two provinces.

“It’s moving along well. We’re pleased with the progress,” Hounsell said.

That’s despite the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.

In March, Trans Mountain implemented new measures in an attempt to keep construction sites free of the virus.

Workers are encouraged to maintain social distancing while on the job. Private chartered buses which take people to and from the site each day are running more frequently so there is less crowding on the buses.

There is also frequent cleaning and a registered nurse on site checking temperatures to ensure people aren’t coming to work with a fever, one symptom of COVID-19.

“We’re doing all those things to ensure both that we can continue construction as to make sure that we’re moving forward but only in a way that is safe,” Hounsell explained.

Construction in Edmonton is expected to wrap up in September or October with the final welding and tie-ins of the expansion line.

Trans Mountain is still waiting on permits for work that needs to be done further down the line.

Between approval delays and protests, the pipeline has seen massive delays over the years.

In February, Trans Mountain CEO Ian Anderson said the cost of the project had ballooned from $7.4 billion to $12.6 billion partly because of the delays.

The expansion is now expected to be operational by December 2022.

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