Located on the Toronto Islands, the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (BBTCA) is Canada’s ninth busiest airport, welcoming more than two million business and leisure travellers each year. Prior to opening of the Pedestrian Tunnel on July 30, 2015, the airport was only accessible only by ferry across a 120 m wide channel.  To ensure future success of the airport, for both operational safety and financial viability, PortsToronto completed a pedestrian tunnel under the channel to give passengers a second, reliable and easy access route to the airport.

Dillon’s involvement with the airport began in 1996, when we were retained to undertake an environmental assessment (EA) that would determine the best form and location for a fixed link from the mainland to the island airport. This high-profile and controversial project included extensive consultation with agency stakeholders and with members of the public. The final preferred alternative at that time was a moveable (bascule) bridge at the foot of Bathurst Street. Dillon led the design team for the new fixed link bridge and roadworks and construction. However, in January 2004, the project was cancelled by the federal government after considerable debate and discussion with the City of Toronto. 

Dillon was subsequently part of a multidisciplinary design-build team responsible for the planning, design and construction of a pair of enhanced ferry terminals (passenger transfer facilities) on either side of the channel, implemented in 2005.

In 2010, Dillon was retained by PortsToronto to manage and oversee the completion of an EA for a new pedestrian tunnel and perimeter road at BBTCA. The pedestrian tunnel project involved constructing a 165 m underground tunnel that will take less than six minutes using four moving sidewalks to travel between the mainland and the island airport. In addition to moving people, the tunnel’s design includes two watermain and sanitary sewer connections to the island.

Constructing the tunnel in a well built-up urban area required Dillon to pay particular attention to impacts on the local residents, traffic management, health, natural environment and airport operations. The EA and designs of the tunnel considered all aspects of transportation including roads, taxi queues, kiss’n’ride area, transit access, airport functions and ferry movement. 

Dillon assisted PortsToronto in completing a preliminary design of the tunnel, preparing bid documents, identifying and evaluating P3 bidders and supplying PortsToronto with technical advisory services through the design and construction phase.

PortsToronto announced on Friday, May 29, 2015, that an Independent Certifier issued a “substantial completion” certificate for the project. Although final finishing work was still underway, the “substantial completion” certificate signaled that construction was essentially complete. The project was opened to the public on July 30, 2015.  

In 2016, Dillon completed a transportation study that showed more than 90% of passengers now choose the six-minute walk through the tunnel. Compared to April 2015, a 75% decrease in vehicle use to get to the airport was discovered relieving congestion on the Eireann Quay and surrounding airport roadways.  

The tunnel was awarded the 2014 Canadian Project of the Year by the Tunnelling Association of Canada, Structural Design Innovation as part of the 2015 Ontario Concrete Awards, and a 2016 Ontario Consulting Engineering Award of Merit in the Project Management category by Consulting Engineers of Ontario.

Project Details

Project Partner: PortsToronto

Project Photos

  • Snagit_PPTF1C8 - Feb 2013
  • Snagit_PPTE7C8
  • 4
  • Snagit_PPT6339 - May 2015 - Two story atrium island side
  • October 2014 Progress Photo - Aerial View 1
  • 103691 - DSC06932 (2).jpg Tunnel Mainland looking toward Island shaft liner  insulation in progress July 03 - 2014_sm
  • Snagit_PPT1D9
  • IMG_0342_web
  • DSC03234
  • Snagit_PPTCA5B
  • 6
  • Mainland June.21.2013 - City Services
  • 8
  • 1
  • 9
  • Snagit_PPT6339 - May 2015
  • Snagit_PPT6339 - May 2015 2
  • 103691 - DSC06935 (2).jpg Tunnel Island looking toward Island shaft M & E rough in in progress July 03 - 2014
  • Billy-Bishop-Tunnel-cross-section
  • Snagit_PPTD71C - Oct 2012
  • Snagit_PPT4420
  • 13
  • 5
  • IMG_0395_web
  • DSC03231
  • October 2014 Progress Photos-Tunnel Progress
  • Aerial Photo with BBTCA in Background