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Island airport officials open to passenger caps to limit traffic congestion

Porter Airlines has been pushing the city to expand the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport by lengthening the runway and allowing jets to land there.

FRED LUM/The Globe and Mail

The Toronto Port Authority is opening the door to caps on passenger traffic at the Island airport, the latest move in the battle to expand service by allowing jets to land there.

The option of limiting traffic is one of several points laid out in a new letter to city staff from the TPA, which owns and operates the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport. While no figures are given, the letter states the TPA is willing to work with the city to establish a cap on annual passengers and on commercial carrier slots to limit traffic congestion at peak hours.

Deputy City Manager John Livey, who received the letter late last week, said a discussion about limits on the airport's future capacity would be "very useful to the city."

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"The scale of the airport is really central to try to figure out what to do with it," he said Monday in advance of a public meeting to discuss a controversial request by Porter Airlines to expand the airport's runway to allow jets.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, an opponent of the airport expansion, dismissed the latest offer. He said the area already has difficulty coping with the existing level of airport traffic.

City staff are studying the proposal and Mr. Livey said an updated report will likely go to a special meeting of the city's executive committee in March, rather than its regular meeting in February. The committee deferred debate on the expansion plan at its December meeting.

City staff last fall outlined a number of concerns with the Porter proposal, including traffic congestion in the area near the airport. Last week, the TPA revealed it had asked the province and the federal government for $100-million to improve road conditions around the airport.

In its letter to the city, the Port Authority also said it plans to put up barriers to reduce the effect of engine noise on the surrounding community. The noise of the new jets is a central issue in the Porter expansion plan.

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Toronto City Hall bureau chief



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