The long arduous task of extending the Spadina subway line into York Region began in earnest Friday.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent, Ontario Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne, Mayor Rob Ford and TTC chair Karen Stintz were all on hand as four massive tunnel boring machines purchased from Toronto's Lovat Inc. were revealed at the future site of Sheppard Avenue West station near Shepard Avenue and Tuscan Gate.

The machines, named Holey, Moley, Yorkie and Torkie as the result of a contest, will begin digging the 8.6 kilometer path from Downsview Station to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre immediately. They are capable of digging through about 15 metres of rock per day.

The project is expected to be completed by 2015.

Officials estimate it will create 20,000 jobs.

"I'm delighted today that for the first time in my political life I'll be delivering boring remarks, which are in fact pretty exciting," Kent told a news conference. "This is a project that will have many benefits for the people of this region. We are going to help more people travel without relying on cars, we are going to give 42,000 students an easier trip to class and we are going to lay the foundation for future sustainable growth in York Region. Growth supported by transit and not the automobile. It just makes sense."

The subway extension carries an estimated price tag of $2.6 billion. It is being jointly funded by the City of Toronto ($526 million), the Regional Municipality of York ($352 million), the province ($870 million) and the Government of Canada ($697 million).

Wynne said the extension could have a significant impact on the future growth of both York University and York Region.

"It is a great and historic day for commuters who rely on public transit," she said. "This is one of the biggest digs ever and we really do believe if we build it they will come."

The extension will create 1,900 commuter parking spaces spread over six new stations.

Ford said it's just the beginning of a major expansion of public transit in the City of Toronto. In March, he announced a $4.2-billion plan to extend the Sheppard line east to Scarborough Town Centre and west to Downsview station.

"The start of tunnel boring for the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project is an important step as part of our strategy to build a transportation city," he said in a press release.