TORONTO – A backhoe has pounded through the last few metres of rock to open up the pedestrian tunnel linking Billy Bishop Airport to mainland Toronto.
Dozens gathered in the tunnel Friday to witness the event – two months after the boring machine began its journey to the other side – as huge boulders tumbled as the tunnel widened in a massive billowing of dust.
A construction worker later emerged from the cloud to step over the newly-formed pile of rubble to become the first pedestrian to walk from Toronto to the Island in the new tunnel.
The Toronto Port Authority says drilling started in April 2012 and that the $82.5 million tunnel – 10 stories underground – is expected to open by fall 2014.
It says that the tunnel will have four moving sidewalks – two in each direction – making it possible to cross the 250 metres in less than six minutes.
Currently, the only way across is to take the ferry across the western gap in Toronto Harbour.
The port authority says the tunnel will “dramatically improve passenger flows.”
“People hunger for successful new transportation infrastructure and that’s what we’re building here,” said Geoffrey Wilson, president and CEO of the port authority.
“A year or so from now we’ll be walking through here,” he added. “We’ll be going up these escalators for arrivals for a flight to one of 19 destinations that we serve here at the airport.”
“This is a fantastic day for the airport, a fantastic day for the Toronto Port Authority who owns and operates the airport, a fantastic day for everyone in Toronto.”
The port authority says the tunnel is being built through a public-private partnership model.
Wilson said the airport served 2.3 million passengers in 2012.
Ferry service will still be available for Billy Bishop Airport passengers once construction is complete, giving travellers’ options on how to get there.