Plans for new Toronto-area airport unveiled
CTV.ca News Staff
Thirty years after the first controversial plan was introduced, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority announced its revised plans on Wednesday to build a $2-billion Pickering airport which would serve as a "regional reliever".
Within a couple of hours, protesters were speaking out against the airport.
Stephen Frederick, president of Voters Organized to Cancel Airport Lands and about two dozen other people were picketing against the airport near the GTAA Pickering office.
Frederick told CTV's CFTO News, "The airport system in southern Ontario is operating at about 35 per cent of total capacity. We do not need another airport for at least 20 years."
But GTAA Vice-President of Corporate Affairs and Communications Steve Shaw said that if forecasts are correct, 30 years down the road, Pearson will be operating at 50 million passengers and Hamilton at 9 million.
If demand allowed for it, the three-runway international airport in Pickering would eventually have capacity for more than 11 million travellers a year, and generate $5-billion a year, Shaw announced Wednesday.
"Pearson will always be the international major facility but clearly there is a need for regional facilities." Shaw said, "General aviation needs to be accommodated. Pearson cannot handle that.''
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said he wants to know more about how the proposal would affect the other airports.
One of the questions that I'm asking is `What about the future of the Hamilton airport?','' McGuinty said, "I've got a real concern about some of the challenges that Hamilton has been up against recently and we'll see how the Pickering proposal fits in with all that.''
The federal government will have the final say after conducting an environmental assessment on the green space, which could take three to four years.
The Pickering airport would mean the end for Oshawa and Markham's Buttonville airports.
"Buttonville and Oshawa have a limited life. Clearly they are limited facilities," he said.
The GTAA has been supporting Buttonville with the understanding that it would close when the Pickering airport opened.
The Pickering airport is slated to open in 2012 for general purposes including recreational and company aircraft and flying schools.
By 2032, the airport will have built a passenger terminal that will accommodate about 10 million passengers a year -- about 20 per cent of the 50 million travellers who will then be going through Pearson airport in Toronto.
This news comes more than 30 years after the federal government began expropriating land for a second international airport in Toronto. The government purchased 7,350 hectares of land in north Pickering in 1972, displacing about 2,000 people.
The project was thrown out, following public and provincial criticism.
Of the original land, 2,251 hectares is reserved as green space on the south slope of the Oak Ridges Moraine. Another 800 hectares is part of the Rouge Valley corridor, which became a park in 1990.
That leaves less than 4,500 hectares of the expropriated land for the new airport -- 2.5 times the size of Pearson. It has been used partly for agricultural purposes. Laws imposed by Ottawa in the late 1990s meant the land was held for airport development. Frederick calls the airport a "complete waste of resources."
"The whole issue of an airport in Pickering has been divisive from Day 1," Pickering Mayor Dave Ryan told The Globe and Mail. "It's been problematic for us in that it has been there for 30 years without much movement, one way or the other. It's good that this is going to bring it to a conclusion."
Markham Mayor Don Cousens has said the project could be beneficial to the York region economy, but that he wants to know whether infrastructure will be built leading to the airport, and who will pay for it.
Shaw said the GTAA's has plans to link the airport to existing and planned roads. He also referred to Highway 407 as a route which would be used to reach the airport.
Shaw rejected critics' claims that the Pickering airport would turn out to be Ontario's Mirabel, an international airport in Montreal where passenger traffic ceased a few weeks ago.
"This is a different role, serves a different purpose, it's a different time and has a different need. Clearly this is a regional reliever," he said.
A draft of the plan will be available to the public on the Airport Authority's website on Thursday.