Island airport expansion takes a big step forward
Following a marathon 12-hour meeting, the city's executive committee has voted 11-1 to press ahead with plans to expand the Island airport, paving the way for a potential showdown at city council early next month.
Provided it can get the backing of council, the decision would allow the city to begin re-negotiating the tripartite agreement between it, the Toronto Port Authority, and Transport Canada that currently bans all passenger jet aircraft from using Billy Bishop Airport.
More than 190 people spoke on both sides of the debate, including Porter CEO Robert Deluce and several of the airline's employees. Opponents of the plan are worried about increased noise, pollution, and traffic congestion.
The report by city staff that the executive committee adopted this evening recommends placing a cap on the number of flights and passengers at the airport before allowing Porter Airlines to fly Bombardier CSeries jets from downtown. It also advised the executive committee to defer their decision until next March, pending more information about the planes and the infrastructure they require from Transport Canada.
In order to operate the airplanes, the runway would need to be expanded by 200 metres at both ends and marine exclusion zones (MEZs,) areas where boats are not allowed to enter, will need to be widened.
Porter has said it hopes to offer trips to destinations further afield as early as 2016.
A motion by Mayor Rob Ford to offer conditional approval to Porter Airlines failed 8-4. Deputy City Manager John Livey said would be "a very big mistake" if the city said yes without all the facts.
A motion by Cllr. Shiner to negotiate restricting jets to 25 per cent of total Island airport flights passed 7-5.
The debate will now proceed to city council for final approval next week. If it passes, and that's still a big if at this stage, it would allow city staff to begin negotiating terms with Porter Airlines, but not before the end of this term of council.
Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.