Toronto Port Authority is building a pedestrian walkway across the Western Gap to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA). The walkway is scheduled to be completed by spring of 2014. Canadian-made tunnel-boring machines “Chip” and “Dale” are in the process of creating seven drift tunnels that will form the walkway’s crown.

“The pedestrian walkway will be a first-class piece of infrastructure that will give passengers convenient, predictable and reliable access to Billy Bishop and we’re well on course to completing it on time and on budget.” said Toronto Port Authority President and CEO Geoffrey Wilson.

The walkway, first proposed in 2009, will be 800 feet long, will be 100 feet down, beneath 33 feet of rock and river bed and 66 feet of water, and will have four moving sidewalks powered by 100 per cent green energy. It is scheduled to cost $82.5 million to build, funded through a public-private partnership consortium (Forum Infrastructure Partners), led by Forum Equity Partners, and will ultimately be paid for by allocations of a portion of the current $20 Airport Improvement Fee collected from departing passengers. Forum Infrastructure Partners will be responsible for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the tunnel until 2033.

The two tunnel-boring machines used to create the tunnel were built by Technicore Underground of Newmarket, Ontario. The 90-tonne machines are 6.5 feet in diameter and 36 feet long, and can excavate between 40 and 50 feet of linear length per day.

The pedestrian tunnel begins on the mainland at the foot of Bathurst Street, and goes under the Western Channel. Passengers will take an elevator on the mainland down to the tunnel level, and then move through the tunnel to escalators that go up to the airport terminal. The existing ferry service will remain in operation to accommodate vehicle traffic, as well as passengers who prefer to take the ferry. From the mainland part of the tunnel, arriving passengers can be met by people in their automobiles, or can reach several downtown destinations via the airport’s complimentary shuttle bus.

Toronto Port Authority owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA), Toronto’s “downtown” airport. In addition to moving more than two million passengers through the airport in 2012, the Port Authority provides transportation, distribution, storage and container services to businesses at the port, and owns and operates Toronto’s largest freshwater marina. The airport has undergone rapid growth during the past decade, resulting from start-up Porter Airlines’ decision in 2006 to designate BBTCA as a hub, from which it commenced short haul regional service. Porter’s major investments in the terminals at BBTCA have helped fuel the growth of passenger volumes passing through it from fewer than 50,000 in 2006 to more than two million in 2012.