Skip to main content

The pedestrian tunnel to Billy Bishop Toronto City Centre Airport under construction in July, 2014. The pathway will open on July 30, 2015.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The tunnel to Toronto's island airport is set to open at the end of this month, just inside the latest deadline for the oft-delayed project.

A pedestrian link under the western channel – an idea that has been tossed around for decades – is due to open on July 30, according to PortsToronto. The 260-metre tunnel will allow more convenient access to the island than the short ferry ride now in use.

"People can come and go on their own schedule and have a little bit more control about when they arrive," said Deborah Wilson, spokesperson for PortsToronto, which operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

"Prior to this, people had to organize their travel around 15-minute increments and hope that they caught the ferry."

A tunnel was first proposed, and axed, in the 1930s. It was revived last decade in the wake of former mayor David Miller killing hopes for a bridge to the airport. Both the timing and price of the project have changed radically over the years.

At a groundbreaking early in 2012, PortsToronto said it would take two to three years. They were more optimistic in the early spring of 2014 when, during a visit to The Globe and Mail's editorial board, port authority leaders said it would be ready in the winter.

In November of 2014, a spokesperson said the timeline for final completion would be known "in the coming weeks." Then in December, it was suggested that the project could be done within months. Fast-forward to the first week of June, PortsToronto said that the $82.5-million P3 project would be done in late July.

On Monday, they finally put a firm date on the projected opening.

"Things just took longer to complete than we had anticipated," Ms. Wilson said. "What were quite minor delays ended up, at the end, sort of bunching up on us and we were several months delayed."

When it opens, the tunnel will have an hourly capacity of about 1,000 people. They will make the trip 30 metres below ground level, walking or riding one of the two moving sidewalks.

Norman Di Pasquale, chairman of the advocacy group NoJets TO, offered muted congratulations to the port authority for "getting this done." But he warned that the tunnel's impact on area traffic – which boosters say will be improved because the ferry will no longer land large groups of people at once – would be less than touted.

"We know the traffic issues are still there," he said. "We say no jets because we don't want to see that area just become basically impassable with another million cars going in and out of there. The tunnel doesn't help with that."