Toronto Island Connected to Foot of Bathurst Street

Update:

Even after construction work on the new tunnel stopped in late 1935 other plans to build that tunnel kept coming forward. In early 1960 the one seen here was proposed by a private engineering company that indicated they could build a tunnel under the gap, complete with escalators, but no moving sidewalk, for a mere $421,000. The idea fell on deaf ears and the Island airport travellers continued to use the wire rope ferry until 1964 when it was replaced by a diesel-powered city tug.
Even after construction work on the new tunnel stopped in late 1935 other plans to build that tunnel kept coming forward. In early 1960 the one seen here was proposed by a private engineering company that indicated they could build a tunnel under the gap, complete with escalators, but no moving sidewalk, for a mere $421,000. The idea fell on deaf ears and the Island airport travellers continued to use the wire rope ferry until 1964 when it was replaced by a diesel-powered city tug.

Tunnel providing link to Billy Bishop Airport

The 853-feet tunnel, which after delays took more than three years to build and cost $82.5 million, will be able to transport 1,100 people per hour via four automated pedways. Officials say no tax dollars were spent on building the tunnel.

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The concept of a tunnel to Toronto Island is more than a century old.

While a tunnel under the West Gap has been the most frequently suggested way of connecting the mainland with the Island a bridge has also been mentioned. Before the present tunnel concept was approved a bridge was in the planning stage. In 2003 it was rejected by Toronto City Council an action that was followed by the federal government's withdrawal of funding. This wasn't the only bridge proposed. Decades earlier the federal government suggested it would build a tunnel from the mainland to Toronto Island. The government idea went nowhere (I guess no election was in the near future), however a private concern came forward and proposed building an "aerial bridge" similar to the one still in use in Duluth, Minnesota. Passengers and vehicles would ride in a suspended cage that would rise to clear any ship traffic that might be transiting the West Gap. This sketch shows it in its proposed Toronto location. However, this project also went nowhere.
While a tunnel under the West Gap has been the most frequently suggested way of connecting the mainland with the Island a bridge has also been mentioned. Before the present tunnel concept was approved a bridge was in the planning stage. In 2003 it was rejected by Toronto City Council an action that was followed by the federal government’s withdrawal of funding. This wasn’t the only bridge proposed. Decades earlier the federal government suggested it would build a tunnel from the mainland to Toronto Island. The government idea went nowhere (I guess no election was in the near future), however a private concern came forward and proposed building an “aerial bridge” similar to the one still in use in Duluth, Minnesota. Passengers and vehicles would ride in a suspended cage that would rise to clear any ship traffic that might be transiting the West Gap. This sketch shows it in its proposed Toronto location. However, this project also went nowhere.

Proposed long before an Island airport was ever dreamed of and a full year before the first Canadian to fly in a powered aircraft (John McCurdy in the “Silver Dart”) the tunnel under Toronto Bay wasperceived as a way for the public to get to and from the Island on an electric streetcar for a fare that was cheaper than those demanded by the “mercenary” ferry operators. And the tunnel would be safer in inclement weather.

In 1929 the Toronto Harbour Commission's (now PortsToronto) idea of constructing a public airport on the "sandbar" at the west end of Toronto Island was still in the conceptual stage. But as this contemporary map shows a tunnel was always part of the project. Almost 90 years would pass before the airport finally got one.
In 1929 the Toronto Harbour Commission’s (now PortsToronto) idea of constructing a public airport on the “sandbar” at the west end of Toronto Island was still in the conceptual stage. But as this contemporary map shows a tunnel was always part of the project. Almost 90 years would pass before the airport finally got one.

To be sure up until the time the peninsula was separated from the mainland during a major storm that deluged the community that breached what is now the East Gap on April 13, 1858 anyone could walk or ride to what Governor John Simcoe’s wife Elizabeth called her “favourite sands.”

On April 18, 1935 the federal government included exactly $1 million in that year's estimates for a "tunnel at the Western Entrance to Toronto Harbour." Work soon began (as seen in this photo), but a mere seven months later the government withdrew its financial support. Suddenly 150 people were out of work. Almost eight decades passed before an illusive underwater passageway welcomed its first traveller.
On April 18, 1935 the federal government included exactly $1 million in that year’s estimates for a “tunnel at the Western Entrance to Toronto Harbour.” Work soon began (as seen in this photo), but a mere seven months later the government withdrew its financial support. Suddenly 150 people were out of work. Almost eight decades passed before an illusive underwater passageway welcomed its first traveller.
When the Island Airport began operation in 1938 access was confined to a modified scow powered by a winch and a wire rope that would pull the craft back and forth between a simple Island dock and the mainland. Even fire crews (and police vehicles, ambulances, fuel tankers and city garbage trucks) were forced to rely on this wire-power.
When the Island Airport began operation in 1938 access was confined to a modified scow powered by a winch and a wire rope that would pull the craft back and forth between a simple Island dock and the mainland. Even fire crews (and police vehicles, ambulances, fuel tankers and city garbage trucks) were forced to rely on this wire-power.
Porter airlines on the island from the foot of bathurst street. A tunnel has now been put into place to replace the ferry that presently carry passengers over to the island airport.
Porter airlines on the island see from from the foot of bathurst street. A tunnel has now been put into place to replace the ferry that presently carry passengers over to the island airport.

On Thursday, for the first time since that stormy day 157 years ago, people can once again walk to the Island (well at least to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport at Hanlan’s Point). The tunnel’s official opening, to which the public is invited, will be at 11:00 a.m. July 30, 2015.

 

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