The Toronto Port Authority has asked the federal government for $100-million to improve traffic and road conditions near the Billy Bishop airport.
The TPA, which owns and operates the Toronto island airport, made the formal request on Monday, the authority's chairman Mark McQueen said on BNN Thursday. If the request is granted, Ottawa and the provincial government would share the cost.
"One big issue was infrastructure spending," Mr. McQueen said. "The city believed there had to be real money put into the ground side infrastructure there at Bathurst Street leading to the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, and the Port Authority on Monday made a formal request of Ottawa and Queen's Park for a $100-million infrastructure envelope to help solve the traffic and ground-side improvements that city staff were looking for."
City council is considering a proposal from Porter Airlines to expand Billy Bishop's runway to fly jets out of the downtown airport. In October, city staff outlined concerns, including traffic congestion immediately surrounding the airport. The funding request – which, if granted, would be split between both Ottawa and the provincial government – would be used to improve city-owned infrastructure to address these concerns.
But Councillor Adam Vaughan, a vocal opponent of the airport expansion, said that $100-million "doesn't even come close" to addressing the traffic congestion problems around the island airport now, let alone if the expansion were approved.
"A hundred million dollars sounds like a lot of money, but it's a drop in the bucket for what the city needs to even think about building an airport the size of Ottawa International Airport on the waterfront."
He added that the city has more pressing issues he on which he would like to see federal dollars used. "We have priorities in this city for things like transit and housing, and if the port authority's going to jump the queue, it's going to make transit and housing projects in the city wait even longer to be addressed by Ottawa."
NoJetsTO, a group opposed to the airport expansion, issued a statement Friday urging Ottawa and Queens Park to reject the request. The group's chair Anshul Kapoor accused the TPA of attempting to "use other peoples' money – our tax dollars, to pay for their Mini-Pearson." He added "It's corporate welfare for the TPA and Porter; hopefully councillors realize that."
City council is set to re-visit the proposed island expansion in February.
With a report from Marcus Gee