TORONTO - A backhoe has pounded through the last few metres of rock to open up the pedestrian tunnel linking Billy Bishop Airport to mainland Toronto.
Dozens gathered in the tunnel Friday to witness the event as huge boulders tumbled as the tunnel widened in a massive billowing of dust.
A construction worker later emerged from the cloud to step over the newly-formed pile of rubble to become the first pedestrian to walk from Toronto to the Island in the new tunnel.
The Toronto Port Authority says drilling started in April 2012 and that the $82.5 million tunnel — 10 stories underground — is expected to open by fall 2014.
It says that the tunnel will have four moving sidewalks — two in each direction — making it possible to cross the 250 metres in less than six minutes.
Passengers using the airport previously had to rely on a ferry and the port authority says the tunnel and will "dramatically improve passenger flows."
"People hunger for successful new transportation infrastructure and that's what we're building here," said Geoffrey Wilson, president and CEO of the port authority.
"A year or so from now we'll be walking through here."
The port authority says the tunnel is being built through a public-private partnership model.
Wilson said the airport served 2.3 million passengers in 2012.