The new Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport pedestrian tunnel under Lake Ontario will open to the public on July 30, providing travelers with fast, reliable and convenient access to the airport.
Long awaited, the tunnel will largely replace a passenger ferry which now shuttles back and forth across Lake Ontario’s approximately 250-yard Western Channel between a dock at Lake Shore Boulevard on the southern shore of Toronto and a dock serving Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is located on the western side of Toronto Island.
Because of its extremely tight space constraints and a general ban on private motor traffic on Toronto Island, the airport does not allow any private vehicles on its land.
Toronto Island lies in Lake Ontario, its closest point to the mainland being only about 300 yards south of Lake Shore Boulevard. The island’s closest point to the mainland is at the ferry dock outside the airport terminal.
Even though the passenger ferry runs in each direction once every 15 minutes, the tunnel’s opening will mean travelers flying from the airport will no longer need to wait for the ferry in order to get to the airport.
Instead, at the north end of the tunnel, they will descend 100 feet via escalators or elevators and travel along the tunnel’s 853-foot main passageway, using one of four moving sidewalks.
At the south end of the tunnel, travelers will ascend to the island atrium and airport’s check-in area using one of the longest escalator systems in Canada.
Arriving passengers will simply leave the airport by descending into the tunnel on the escalator and ascend using the escalator or the elevators at the tunnel’s northern end, bringing them up to ground level in a passenger drop-off and pick-up area just off Lake Shore Boulevard.
From there, passengers can take the airport-operated Shuttle Bus to downtown Toronto, be met by family or friends picking them up by car, take a taxi, or even walk the short distance into downtown Toronto to get to their destinations.
The tunnel will be 100 per cent powered by green energy supplied by Bullfrog Power Inc., according to PortsToronto, the owner and operator of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 11:00 a.m. on the morning of July 30 to celebrate the opening of the tunnel. Members of the public will be able to obtain access to the tunnel shortly thereafter.
In March 2012, PortsToronto began excavation on the tunnel, which has been built under Lake Ontario’s Western Channel.
The C$82.5 million (US$63.46 million) tunnel was built using a public-private partnership agreement among PortsToronto, Forum Equity Partners and lead contractor PCL, at no cost to taxpayers.
A study conducted earlier in 2015 by Dillon Consulting on behalf of PortsToronto found that 37 per cent of travelers walk, bike or take public transit to reach Billy Bishop Airport.
The study indicated that private vehicle drop-offs and pick-ups related to the airport had dropped by more than 40 per cent since the last study was completed in 2012.
In addition to the increase in the number of people walking, biking and taking transit to the airport, a number which grew from 27 per cent in 2012 to 37 per cent in 2015, the survey also confirmed a 10 per cent reduction in the number of passengers departing to the airport by taxi.
The survey also registered a 47 per cent increase in those departing on Lake Shore Boulevard by the airport’s shuttle bus (17 per cent of travelers in 2012 vs. 25 per cent in 2015).
Of note is that the 40 per cent decrease in private vehicle drop-offs and pick-ups related to the airport occurred despite the fact that overall passenger traffic at Billy Bishop Airport increased from 2.3 million to 2.4 million passengers annually between 2012 and 2014.
The study also indicated that, on average, 10-12 per cent of all traffic in the surrounding area can be attributed to Billy Bishop Airport.
On Lake Shore Boulevard, 2 to 4 per cent of traffic can be attributed to the airport; on Bathurst Street north of Queen’s Quay, 30-35 per cent of the traffic is airport-related.
In the area to the west, including Stadium Road, only 2 per cent of the traffic can be attributed to the airport; and on other routes such as Dan Leckie Way and Queen’s Quay to the east, airport traffic comprises approximately 15 per cent of total traffic.
PortsToronto (formerly the Toronto Port Authority) owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport; the Outer Harbour Marina, one of Canada’s largest freshwater marinas; and Terminals 51 and 52, which provide transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the Port of Toronto.