Saturday, October 25, 2014
Tunnelling to Toronto's island airport
This $82.5 million project was started two years ago, but for a number of reasons the anticipated completion date just wasn’t to be.
Interestingly, one of the reasons it wasn’t had to do with some interesting harbour history. At least that was one place where the contractor laid the blame. Love it, blame history even though the facts were there for all to see.
And just what was that historical “oversight”?
Apparently someone forgot to recognize the fact that nearly 80 years ago work had been started on a previous tunnel to the Island in the same location at the foot of Bathurst St.
Seems some of these old pilings were in the way of building the new tunnel and this along with an extremely cold 2013-2014 winter plus the city’s refusal to allow the use of explosives to cut through the bedrock led to unforeseen construction delays.
Obviously, someone isn’t a regular reader of this column or listener to my am740 radio show where the history of trying to build an Island tunnel has been explained several times.
And if you missed it yourself, here’s a brief recap.
One of the promises the federal government made when the newly organized Toronto Harbour Commission (now the Toronto Port Authority) came into being in 1911 was to provide funds for a bridge to Toronto Island. This may have been as a result of a conversation several local businessmen had with a senior government minister back in 1908. Minister Pugsley decided a tunnel for Toronto wasn’t important enough and nothing happened.
Then in early 1935 the Conservative government under R. B. Bennett made another promise, this time to give the City of Toronto $1 million to build a pedestrian tunnel under the Western Channel that would serve the proposed airport that was to be built at the west end of Toronto Island.
Work began, that is excavations were dug and steel pilings sunk, but with the change in governments following that year’s October 14 federal election the new Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, (who was no fan of Toronto even though his grandfather was our city’s first mayor) ordered that the Island tunnel project be re-evaluated.
To those of the Liberal persuasion it came as no surprise when on December 12 (just in time for Christmas) the funding was officially rescinded and more than 100 men put out of work.
Over the intervening years there have been other plans for either a tunnel or a bridge to the airport. Again nothing happened. But now fast forward 80 years to sometime in early 2015 and that illusive Island airport tunnel will finally open (assuming no more pilings are found and we don’t have another really cold winter).
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