Bridging the facts of a bridge
Everything seems so simple from the outside.
If you get a call tonight from someone claiming to be a pollster asking for your preference between a “$38 million bridge or a $65 million pedestrian tunnel” to Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport, you should consider yourself lobbied.
It seems that someone, and I’m not certain who, is spending a lot of money trying to turn the clock back to 2003. One can only assume that this particular someone benefits financially from selling you on a bridge. We know it’s not Porter Airlines, since they are on the record in favour of the pedestrian tunnel, as is Ornge, the Toronto Board of Trade and the Economic Club of Toronto, among others.
Based upon the reports from the three people who’ve received such calls, this is what’s called a “push poll”: the person backing it wants to transmit information and opinions to you under the guise of asking you about yours. I’m not sure where the bridge vs. tunnel cost estimates come from, but the pollster is transparent about the ultimate goal: to make you vote for a bridge.
As Toronto Port Authority Communications Director Suzanna Birchwood advised last week at the third public Environmental Assessment meeting on the proposed pedestrian tunnel, the so-called poll has nothing to do with the TPA; and it certainly doesn’t have its support. Since the TPA first raised the pedestrian tunnel concept in June 2009, the agency has been focused on one simple thing: finding the right solution to the pending access problem at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
With a 50x increase in passenger traffic in a few short years, the quaint ferry ride will soon be unable to handle all of the traffic at peak load times (see prior post “The life of a short haul ferry captain” Dec 20-2010). When that day comes, one of the key attractions of the airport’s location — convenience — will be undermined if you have to wait 30 minutes before getting a lift to the mainland.
Under no circumstances should it take longer to get from the airport to the mainland than it does to fly in from Ottawa.
For those who advocate for a bridge, there is the simple yet binary issue of the 2005 federal law brought in by Paul Martin’s government that prohibits “a bridge or similar fixed link”.
Even if the current Federal government were to wipe that slate clean, the TPA would have to begin a new 12 month Environmental Assessment process given the material change to the notional project. Although the “push poll” claims that a bridge would be substantially cheaper than a pedestrian tunnel, this back-of-the-envelope costing ignores i) the reality that the City of Toronto would likely have to spend millions to widen Bathurst Street south of Lakeshore to accomodate the increased road traffic, ii) the fact that the TPA would be contractually obliged to pay many millions to move its client Stolport from its current location at Hanger One (northeast corner of the airport) and build the firm a brand new hanger facility on the south side of the airport property, iii) the opposition of Toronto’s recreational sailors, who are not burdened by an underwater tunnel (unless they could be mollified with a swing type bridge, which would add many millions in costs), iv) the substantial costs already incurred designing the pedestrian tunnel (which would be thrown out), v) the passenger inconvenience and forgone Airport Improvement Fee revenue that directly follows any delay in the proposed 2nd access route by one to two years, vi) what would have to be done about the rumoured tens of millions of legal settlement dollars paid by the then Paul Martin government in relation to the cancellation of the previous bridge proposal, etc.
If I had wings, I’d be able to fly. That could be ideal. But business doesn’t work like that. You analyze the situation before you and make the best decision, taking into account all of the available facts. Not just the ones that might suit a particular argument.
(disclosure: this blog, as always, reflects a personal view and is not meant to represent the views of the TPA, its Board/Staff or the federal government)
Could you define a â€œsimilar fixed link”? If a tunnel is not a fixed link what else is aside from a bridge? What is the Chunnel then if it is not an “undersea railway tunnel linking France to England?” I quote wikipedia here. What did the framers of this law intend when they meant no “similar fixed link”? A bridge of another colour?
Thanks for stopping by, Elizabeth.
The 2005 federal law you refer to actually prohibits “a bridge or similar fixed link.” The word “similar” is tied to the word “bridge”. A causeway would be similar, I suppose, to a bridge fixed link because it is above water.
According to two different polls over two years, conducted by two independent polling firms, the vast majority of Torontonians are in favour of the proposed Public-Private Partnership pedestrian tunnel.
I’m not sure it’s a slam dunk that a tunnel is not a “similar fixed link” from a statutory interpretation perspective.
Law aside, I think there should be a gondola (not joking).
Thanks for stopping by Keith.
There’s nothing about a pedestrian tunnel that’s similar to vehicle bridge. A bridge is built above water, carries cars, blocks sailboats, and is visible from shore.
A pedestrian tunnel has none of those attributes.