Billy Bishop Airport pedestrian tunnel officially opens to the public
Chris Fox, CP24.com
Published Thursday, July 30, 2015 6:41AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 30, 2015 4:17PM EDT
Getting to Billy Bishop Airport just got a whole lot easier.
The long-awaited pedestrian tunnel that connects the airport terminal on Toronto Island with the mainland officially opened to the public at 1:30 p.m. following a ribbon cutting ceremony earlier in the day.
The 853-feet tunnel, which after delays took more than three years to build and cost $82.5 million, will be able to transport 1,100 people per hour via four automated pedways. Officials say no tax dollars were spent on building the tunnel.
Previously, passengers relied on a ferry that departed each side of the channel every 15 minutes. That ferry will continue to operate once the tunnel opens to the public.
Toronto Mayor John Tory was on hand at a news conference along with federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt on Thursday morning to celebrate the opening of the tunnel.
Raitt said the ferry service alone has caused passengers stress as delays or a missed boat often meant missed flights.
"From the tunnel, people will have direct access to the core," she said.
Meanwhile, Tory said the tunnel, which takes about six minutes to cross, is the latest example of the city's modernized waterfront.
"It's a modern, practical connection to the mainland," he said. "It's what you can expect from a world-class city."
In a statement issued Thursday morning, Coun. Rob Ford took credit for the airport tunnel, noting that it was under his administration that work began on the project.
"As far back as 40 years ago, there were discussions about the need for a link to Toronto's City Centre Airport," the statement says. "Had it not been for the agreement reached in July 2011 between my administration and the Toronto Port Authority, we may have had to wait another 40 years."
Ford also noted that current mayor John Tory would have been unable to be involved in tunnel discussions had he been on council at the time because of his son's past lobbying in favour of allowing jets at the island airport.
The Ward 2 councillor also took a swipe at his predecesor as mayor David Miller, noting that his administration was "strongly opposed to" the island airport.
Tory has previously said that he will declare a conflict-of-interest on all matters relating to the proposal to "permit jet service at Billy Bishop," though it is unclear whether he would have declared a conflict on debates surrounding the tunnel had he been in power at the time.
"Once again, I am very happy to see the pedestrian tunnel opening, and plan on being at this morning's ribbon cutting ceremony," Ford wrote. "I look forward to the added economic benefit that it, and further airport expansion, can bring to the City of Toronto."
While politicians and travellers alike have greeted the opening of the airport tunnel with enthusiasm, not everyone is celebrating.
Speaking with CP24 on Thursday afternoon, the chair of a lobby group opposing Porter’s plans to bring jets to the airport said he has serious concerns about traffic in the area going forward.
“This is a convenience for Porter’s customers and that is basically where it begins and ends,” NoJetsTO Chair Norman Di Pasquale said. “This doesn’t solve the traffic issuers that are currently down there or the traffic issues that we would have if we added another one million cars to that area, which is what the jets proposal would end up doing.”
Porter is asking the city, the feds and the Toronto Port Authority – co-signers of a Tripartite Agreement that has governed the waterfront airport since 1983 – to rescind a stipulation prohibiting jets from flying into or out of the airport.
Discussing the proposal, Di Pasquale said he believes the Billy Bishop Airport “makes great sense” for shorter destinations but should not be expanded.
“If the councillors vote yes, then it moves to the federal government where there will be another fight,” Di Pasquale said. “Let’s not forget that council approved the Spadina Expressway and then Premier Bill Davis knocked it down.”
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