Norm Kelly wants airport expansion vote this year

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly wants to see council vote this year on Porter Airlines' plan to expand the island airport.

Staff report calls for caps to passenger growth, points to unanswered questions

Porter Airlines wants to expand the runway at Toronto's Billy Bishop airport to accommodate jets. (CBC)

Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly says he'd like to see council vote this year on a plan to expand Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, despite a city report that calls for limits on its growth.

Porter Airlines wants to extend both ends of the main runway  — from 168 to 200 metres — to accommodate a new fleet of Bombardier CS-100 jets, which would allow Porter to serve more more distant cities. The company currently operates only turboprop planes from the island airport.

A city report presented to executive committee on Thursday calls for limits —  largely in the form of caps to passenger volume — to control growth at the airport.

If accepted, the proposal would initially limit volume to 2.4 million local passengers per year. After that, volumes would climb to 2.7 million passengers annually.

Kelly said if council can get the passenger limits approved, it will give the city a greater say in how the airport is managed.

"Right now, we don't have any control over that development," he said. "If this does not pass, then the airport will continue to grow without any controls and beyond the reach of council."

The report points to a number of questions staff say must be addressed before runway expansion can be considered.

These include:

  • Transport Canada must weigh in on whether extending the runway is feasible.
  • Existing fight test data is "insufficient" to determine whether the C-Series jets conform to existing noise restrictions.
  • There must be an environmental assessment.
  • There needs to be a detailed runway design.

"This work will take the rest of 2014 to complete," the report states. 

On Metro Morning Friday, host Matt Galloway asked Kelly if he was pushing for a vote this year so it can happen before the Oct. 27 election, which could drastically change the composition of council.

"That's called politics, Matt," said Kelly.

Surging passenger volumes

Annual passenger volume at the airport has surged in recent years, from 26,000 passengers in 2006 to 2.3 million in 2012.

Coun. Adam Vaughan said the airport is already putting stress on the neighbourhood around Eireann Quay, which is in his ward. He said the expansion is an "extraordinarily expensive project," that could soak up federal infrastructure money he says should instead be spent on subway expansion.

"If you are going to grow this airport, where is the money going to come from?" Vaughan said Friday on Metro Morning. "The federal government has to put the money on the table."

The report is scheduled for debate at Tuesday's executive committee. Decisions about whether or not to lift the jet ban or to extend the runway are not on the agenda.


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