Billy Bishop airport's new pedestrian tunnel: what you need to know

Instead of a 90-second ferry ride, passengers can now reach Toronto's Billy Bishop airport thanks to a new pedestrian tunnel that enters service today.

A few facts about the airport's new underground pedestrian tunnel set to enter service today

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      Starting today, travellers can forgo the 90-second ferry ride on their way to and from Toronto's Billy Bishop airport thanks to a new underground pedestrian tunnel that runs under Lake Ontario.

      The tunnel officially opened today at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Mayor John Tory and Transportation Minister Lisa Raitt.

      Here are a few facts about the new tunnel, which Tory called a "modern, practical connection between the airport and the mainland."

      How much did it cost, and who will pay for it? The tunnel cost $82.5 million to build, but hold the outrage … a lot of that cash will come from the $20 airport improvement fee departing passengers pay, It will cost about $8.6 million a year to cover the tunnel's construction, maintenance and operating costs.

      What will the passenger experience be like? Instead of that short ferry ride, passengers heading to the airport will descend 30 metres (about 10 storeys) underground via a bank of elevators. From there four moving sidewalks — two travelling in each direction — will carry travellers 240 metres at a rate of 2.3 kilometres an hour.

      On the island side of the tunnel one of the longest escalator systems in the country will connect passengers to an atrium and the airport check-in.

      The entire trip through the tunnel will take about six minutes.

      This should be a big improvement to the ferry trips, which currently operate five times every hour. During peak periods, the ferry often leaves passengers stuck on the shore because the vessel has a 200-passenger limit. The tunnel should also ease congestion at security and check-in counters because passengers will no longer arrive in waves created by each ferry arrival.

      Ken Lundy of Ports Toronto — which operates the airport — said it will make for a more reliable link between the airport and mainland.

      "It gives passengers reliability that comfort that they'll be at their plane in time," he said on Metro Morning.

      Those the nostalgic for the ferry ride can still take it across the water as it will continue to operate.

      So does this mean the ferry will stop running? No, the ferry will continue to carry vehicles to and from the island. 

      Why open it now, less than a week after the Pan Am Games wraps up? The project didn't finish on time. Its original projected completion date of Fall 2014 was pushed back repeatedly.

      Rob Ford takes some credit

      Councillor and former mayor Rob Ford issued a statement on Thursday saying his administration was key to getting the tunnel built. His statement also takes a swipe at Tory. Here's a section of Ford's statement:

      "As far back as 40 years ago, there were discussions about the need for a link to Toronto's City Centre Airport. Had it not been for the agreement reached in July 2011 between my administration and the Toronto Port Authority, we may have had to wait another 40 years. An agreement that the current Mayor could not participate in, because of his conflicts, and that the Miller administration was strongly opposed to."

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