New $82.5 million island airport pedestrian tunnel ‘a win for Torontonians’

When fliers touch down at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, they now have a sleek, speedy new option for getting to the mainland: The long-awaited pedestrian tunnel.

After the tunnel’s official opening on Wednesday afternoon, the six-minutes-or-less trip was met with praise from passengers and airline staff alike.

“We don’t have to wait for the ferry any more when we finish a long day,” said Porter flight attendant Amanda Kerrivan, fresh from a flight. (Ferries will remain an option, though.)

Built within the bedrock 30 metres below the lake, the tunnel is a bright, spacious route between mainland Toronto and the airport, allowing the public to stroll through or cross quickly on one of the four moving sidewalks — two in each direction — which travel at 2.3 kilometres an hour.

“All told this project represents a win for travelers, a win for the city, and a win for Torontonians in general,” PortsToronto chairman Mark McQueen said earlier that day during an invitation-only ribbon-cutting ceremony alongside Mayor John Tory and Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt.

Tory praised the project as one of many improvements coming to Toronto’s waterfront.

“The pedestrian tunnel has been a massive, complicated undertaking since construction began in 2012, and it really is one of those very unique infrastructure projects in all of Canada – the first of its kind in the country,” Tory said.

A tunnel of this scale comes with challenges, noted Paul Stevens, project director for ZAS Architects + Interiors.

“It’s probably one of the most complex infrastructure projects you can ever imagine. You’re building a tunnel under a lake bed,” Stevens said.

“We used very complex modeling software that has three-dimensional coordination to make sure we got exactly the right positioning of it, because if you’re drilling in the wrong spot, it’s going to come up in the wrong spot.”

The roughly 240-metre-long tunnel — that’s slightly longer than two football fields — is accessible by mainland elevators inside a new pavilion, and leads into a bright airport space offering a view of the downtown skyline.

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