The latest timeline for the much-delayed tunnel to the Toronto island airport has it opening in late July, meaning that it will probably not be operational until after the Pan Am Games.
Ports Toronto spokeswoman Erin Mikaluk said Tuesday that the construction ran into delays that were compounded by the shortage of skilled labour in the city, where multiple major projects are under way.
"We're confident that late July is going to happen," Ms. Mikaluk said in an interview.
In a follow-up e-mail, she added that "nothing went wrong, it just took longer than expected."
Porter Airlines, the main tenant at the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, is the official Canadian sponsor of the Pan Am Games, which run from July 10 to 26.
"Certainly it would've been nice to have the tunnel open in time for the Games, but the Games were never a deadline for the tunnel's completion," Ms. Mikaluk said. "So we're going to open it as soon as it's ready and we know the work that now remains."
Porter spokesman Brad Cicero said the tunnel's timeline had nothing to do with the airline's sponsorship. He noted that many of the people coming to the Games are making long journeys and would be more likely to use Pearson International Airport.
"We wanted to sponsor the Games because of our position as a Toronto-based airline and the fact that Toronto and the GTA and surrounding areas are the focus of the Games this time around," he said.
"We'll be happy to have people fly with us, and the ferry or the tunnel was really not part of that equation in our mind."
The $82.5-million tunnel from the western downtown to Billy Bishop airport is being built as a public-private partnership. A portion of the fees paid by airport passengers goes toward its financing.
The dream of building a link under the Western Channel has been kicked around since the 1930s. The experience has proved more difficult than expected. And Ports Toronto – the new name for the Toronto Port Authority – has been vague throughout the project on how long it would take.
At the groundbreaking, in March of 2012, Ports Toronto said it would take 24 to 36 months. In the early spring of 2014, during a visit to The Globe and Mail's editorial board, port authority leaders said it would be ready in the winter. In November, a spokesperson said the timeline for final completion would be known "in the coming weeks." In December, a spokesperson suggested that the project could be done within months.
It was only this week that the port authority said it had received the assurances it needed from the contractor to give a rough deadline for completion.
"There's been a few construction-related pieces of the project that took a bit longer," Ms. Mikaluk conceded. "The major pieces of the project are done. So, at this point in time, we're doing more minor things, such as the final installation of the final elevator and architectural finishes."