Ottawa moves to make a tunnel to the Island Airport legal

Ottawa moves to make a tunnel to the Island Airport legal

Toronto Island Airport (Image: Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff) 

Now that they’re not asking for government money, the Toronto Port Authority should have an easy time building the planned fixed-link tunnel between the foot of Bathurst and the Island Airport. There’s just one problem with the plan: it might be illegal. According to a Paul Martin-era amendment to the Canada Marine Act, the TPA cannot use or authorize any “bridge or similar fixed link”. So what’s a crown corporation to do? Call Ottawa and ask for a “clarification.”

According the Globe and Mail:

The federal government has introduced a draft regulation that would reverse the prohibition against “a bridge or similar fixed link” connecting the mainland and the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport….

Chairman Mark McQueen said the TPA decided to pursue the minor change to take a potential arrow out of its opponents’ quiver.

“We were always on sound footing in our minds,” he said. “Recognizing that there were those who would like to see that airport shut and will do anything they can to make life difficult as best they can, leaving anything to chance wouldn’t have been prudent.”

Before anyone gets too excited, it sounds like the most this regulation would do is allow for the tunnel, not totally reverse the regulation banning a bridge. A press release from the TPA notes that for their purposes they always believed the “similar fixed link” language meant things like a causeway, not a tunnel. TPA spokesperson Suzanna Birchwood told us that the TPA is not seeking any kind of permission for a bridge or causeway, “we’re just looking for a bit more clarity than the 2005 regulation gave.”

According to Birchwood, if the TPA gets all the green lights they need in a timely fashion, the tunnel could open in the summer or fall of 2013. One construction option would involve asking the city to let builders dig into a concrete wall it owns on the shore. Rob Ford is more pro-tunnel than David Miller was (he’d almost have to be), but if this needs to go to council we can probably expect fireworks, if only because Ford and Adam Vaughan—who both represent the people who live across the water from the airport—just can’t hide their animosity for each other.

• Ottawa moves to clear path for Toronto island airport tunnel [Globe and Mail]
• TPA Statement on Proposed federal regulation [Toronto Port Authority]