Open Jaw Test Drives The New YTZ Tunnel

with Martha Chapman

Excited contest winner Joel MacCharles with his partner Dana Harrisone.

Media scrum follows MacCharles to the end of the tunnel

But the view’s not as good as the one from the ferry!

It’s been a long time coming – and $83 million in the making. The tunnel joining Toronto “mainland” with Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island (YTZ) has been unveiled at last.

As charming and quirky as the 4 min. ferry ride has been over the years since PD opened shop on the island, it recently has proven – with the potential wait on each side of the channel - another little factor in trip planning which the tunnel will surely alleviate. Some 2 million pax per year now use the airport.

And as far as tunnels go, this one is the fanciest I’ve seen. There’s a new 1 storey addition to the main terminal which houses 6 elevators to whisk travellers 30 meters down to the entrance of the bright and expansive tunnel, which is open to pedestrians only. They then walk – or ride one of the automated sidewalks – some 260 meters to the other end. In all, the journey takes an estimated 6 min.

Joining the celebrations on Thursday was Torontonian Joel MacCharles, winner of a radio contest to be the first pedestrian to walk through the tunnel (to board, lucky him, a Porter flight to EWR for a weekend with all the trimmings). MacCharles – surely the world’s most perfect contest winner – raved about the experience, about PD and about YTZ airport, which many Torontonians still refer to affectionately as the Island Airport.

“This is so cool! I think I’m more excited about the tunnel than the trip!” he enthused, adding that every 2 years he does a food-themed trip with friends to a PD destination. (You can follow his adventures on this trip at

The ferry will continue to operate on its usual schedule. “Some passengers just love it,” Erin Mikaluk of Ports Toronto told me. “They find it relaxing.” And as a fellow passenger pointed out to me as I rode it back to the city, “If you’re not in a rush, it’s a lovely way to get to the city – and the view is wonderful.”

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