Pedestrian Tunnel to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport Opens Today

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Toronto (July 30, 2015) –PortsToronto is pleased to announce that the new pedestrian tunnel to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is now open to the public, providing travellers with a fast, reliable and convenient way to access the airport.
Since it was first opened in 1939, Billy Bishop Airport has only been accessible by ferry. Today, a new 853-foot pedestrian tunnel runs across the Western Channel of Lake Ontario, constructed within the bedrock 100 feet beneath the surface of the lake. The tunnel will serve as the first land-link between Toronto’s mainland and the island, which was constructed by a predecessor agency of PortsToronto in the 1930s using land reclaimed from Toronto Harbour.
“After years of planning and three years of construction by PCL Construction, the PortsToronto team is thrilled to announce that the new Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport pedestrian tunnel is now open,” said Mark McQueen, Chairman of PortsToronto. “The tunnel will improve the already swift travel experience for the 2 million local passengers who pass through our airport each year en route to destinations around the world. Although it took 80 years to come to fruition, I am proud that it will serve the City of Toronto for the next 80, at least. That PortsToronto was able to deliver this unique piece of infrastructure without a penny of taxpayer dollars is just the icing on the cake. Our passengers will love the convenient and predictable access to an airport that connects Toronto to the world.”
The tunnel, which cost $82.5 million to build, was funded through a public-private partnership agreement between PortsToronto, Forum Equity Partners and lead contractor PCL. Ultimately, the cost of the tunnel will be paid for by airport users via a portion of the existing Airport Improvement Fee.
“The efficient movement of the travelling public in the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of Canada is a key priority for the Government of Canada,” said the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport. “Our government was very supportive of the regulatory and legislative changes required for this project to move forward, and I am so pleased to see this much-needed tunnel open to the public today.”
Travellers arriving from the mainland will enter a new one-storey pavilion that serves as the entryway to the tunnel. From a bank of six elevators inside the pavilion, they will then descend 100 feet to access the tunnel and travel along the horizontal passageway via four automated sidewalks moving at a speed of 2.3 kilometres per hour.  
At the south end of the horizontal expanse of the tunnel, travellers can choose to ascend to the island atrium and airport’s check-in area using one of the longest escalator systems in Canada, one of two elevators, or a staircase of 153 steps to the top.
The complete journey through the tunnel will take less than six minutes and will dramatically improve passenger flow and reduce line-ups given that passengers will now travel on their own schedule and not have to arrive and depart in groups according to the ferry’s schedule. The airport’s ferry will continue to operate as normal for those who prefer to use it.
Since the start of its construction, the tunnel’s unique design and construction have won it the International Tunneling & Underground Space Association's 2014 Specialist Tunneling Project of the Year Award and the Tunneling Association of Canada's 2014 Canadian Project of the Year Award.
“The design of the tunnel marks the first time in Canada that a drift system was used to construct the arched crown design of the main tunnel,” said Geoffrey Wilson, CEO, PortsToronto. “This innovative design provided for the incorporation of three City of Toronto water and sewer mains to service Toronto Island and, in so doing, saved Toronto taxpayers more than $10 million in duplicate construction costs. We are immensely proud of the collaboration that was involved in building this tunnel be it with the city, our construction partners or stakeholders and of our efforts to complete the project with as little disruption as possible to the surrounding community. We are looking forward to realizing the benefits that this tunnel will have on our travellers, our operations and Toronto overall.”
"The pedestrian tunnel to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport provides residents and visitors alike the level of customer service and convenience one would expect of a world class city like Toronto. This pedestrian tunnel is a perfect example of how private and public partnerships can help reimagine Toronto and build up the city. I want to thank all of those involved in getting us to today,” said Mayor John Tory. "This piece of infrastructure also represents what can happen when the City of Toronto collaborates with our partners like PortsToronto. We were able to coordinate construction and incorporate much-needed water main work into this project, saving money and time in duplicate construction and eliminating the need for more construction in later years.”
The tunnel also incorporates leading-edge technology, with 42 large digital screens installed throughout the pavilion, atrium and tunnel that will provide travellers with information and work in conjunction with the Billy app which offers concierge-type services and curated content to assist with travel. Launching this August, the app will offer such content as traffic, weather, directions, estimated wait times at various points in the airport, travel suggestions, restaurant recommendations and flight information. All areas of the tunnel are also equipped with free WiFi to enable travellers to work and communicate without interruption. 
For downloadable, high-res images and more information on the Pedestrian Tunnel,
Excavation of the mainland and island shafts of the tunnel began in early 2012. Once digging was complete, two purpose-built, 36-foot-long, Canadian-made tunnel boring machines dubbed “Chip” and “Dale” were engaged to bore the seven interlocking “tunnel drifts,” forming the unique arched crown design of the main tunnel, a first in Canadian innovation. The first tunnel drifts broke through to the island side in January 2013, marking a significant milestone in the tunnel’s construction. By August 2013, the horizontal core of the tunnel had been fully excavated, establishing the first land link between mainland Toronto and the island. By May 2014, the waterproofing and reinforcing steel layers of the tunnel had been installed, allowing 2,000 cubic metres of concrete to be poured to create the tunnel’s concrete liner. The concrete was poured in 16 sections by a 110-tonne, 12-metre, arch-shaped hydraulic machine that formed an artificial surface onto which the concrete was pumped to create the tunnel’s ceiling and walls. In late 2014, construction on the tunnel’s connecting structures was well underway, with the pavilion’s structural steel and roof deck and the island-side atrium’s roofing system complete.
In early 2015, the tunnel’s 18 segments of escalators, which form one of the longest escalator systems in Canada, were installed completing yet another major milestone in the tunnel’s construction. On May 29, the Independent Certifier for the tunnel project issued a “substantial completion” certificate to PortsToronto, PCL Construction and Forum Equity Partners, signalling the start of the final stage of construction for the tunnel. Since then, all of the tunnel’s elevators have been commissioned, the integral safety and security systems installed, and the leading-edge Digital Out-of-Home advertising platform integrated throughout the structure.
Historical Features:
Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport is named after one of Canada’s most successful flying aces and recipient of the Victoria Cross, William Avery “Billy” Bishop. As part of the tunnel experience and as a tribute to the airport’s namesake, passengers will be invited to learn more about Bishop through unique historical elements and artifacts that have been set up in the tunnel’s pavilion and atrium.
Upon entering the mainland pavilion, passengers will be greeted by a life-size bronze statue of Bishop standing alongside another of Canada’s greatest flying aces, William George Barker. On the opposite end of the tunnel, as travellers ascend the escalators to the atrium, a life-size model of a Nieuport 17 suspended from the ceiling will come into view. With a wingspan of more than 26 feet and measuring more than 18 feet in length, the model took 1,200 hours to build and replicates nearly every detail of the Nieuport 17 that Bishop piloted. The atrium also features an exhibit dedicated to Bishop with display cases featuring artifacts and memorabilia, along with a photographic retrospective that doubles as a seating area.
About PortsToronto (
For more than 100 years PortsToronto, (formerly the Toronto Port Authority), has worked with its partners at the federal, provincial and municipal levels to enhance the economic growth of the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area. PortsToronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which welcomes more than two million passengers each year; 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. PortsToronto is committed to fostering strong, healthy and sustainable communities and has invested more than $6.7 million since 2009 in charitable initiatives and environmental programs that benefit communities along Toronto's waterfront and beyond. PortsToronto operates in accordance with the Canada Marine Act and is guided by a nine-member board with representation from all three levels of government.
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Media Contact:
Erin Mikaluk, Senior Manager, Communications & Media Relations, PortsToronto
Tel: (416) 863-2065; Cell: (647) 298-0544; E-mail: