Tunnel to downtown Toronto airport to go ahead

Tue Jul 13, 2010 3:10pm EDT
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - The Toronto Port Authority will go ahead with a C$45 million pedestrian tunnel to Toronto's island airport to improve access and meet higher demand, the agency's chief executive said in an interview on Tuesday.

The federally run authority owns and operates the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which sits just minutes from the downtown core and is popular with business travelers.

Construction on the tunnel will likely begin in January after an environmental assessment is completed and a company is chosen through a bidding process to build, finance, and maintain the tunnel, CEO Geoffrey Wilson said.

"We know just from the build up for this that there is a very wide group of interest to both finance and build this tunnel from varying parties across Canada and, indeed, North America," he said.

Wilson added that the public-private partnership would rely on user fees rather than government money and that an increase in the C$20 airport improvement fee would not be required.

It will take about two years to build the tunnel, which will bore through the shale underneath a 123-meter (400-foot) stretch of Lake Ontario. The tailings will be used to create a ring road around the airport, Wilson said.

Some residents in the lakefront area of Toronto have vocally opposed any increase in the airport's size and commercial operations, but a TPA-commissioned study by pollster Ipsos Reid found that 55 percent of the people in the area support the idea of a pedestrian tunnel. Right now a ferry shuttles passengers to and from the island airport.

About 770,000 passengers used the airport in 2009 and the port authority expects about 1.2 million passengers in 2010.   Continued...