New airline proposed for Toronto city centre


Aug 20, 2002
The Toronto Globe & Mail :
Airline would serve 17 destinations from city islands
Saturday, October 5, 2002 – Print Edition, Page A20
A new airline will eventually serve 17 cities from Thunder Bay to Washington from the Toronto City Centre Airport if the Toronto Port Authority gets the go-ahead for a plan it unveiled yesterday.
The TPA has signed an agreement with Regional Airlines Holdings Inc. (REGCO), a company that plans to start an airline to serve the cities from the airport on the Toronto Islands, TPA chairman Henry Pankratz said yesterday.
The key to the implementation of the plan is the construction of a lift-bridge across the Western Gap that links the Inner Harbour to Lake Ontario near the foot of Bathurst Street.
The TPA''s agreement with REGCO calls for the airline to order 15 Q400 turboprop planes built at Bombardier''s Downsview plant as soon as the TPA signs a contract for the construction of the bridge.
REGCO president Robert Deluce said the company has arranged $550-million to buy planes and to start the new airline. It is prepared, if necessary, to finance the $15-million to $20-million to build the bridge and $20-million to $30-million to build a new terminal, he said.
The cost of the bridge and the terminal will be recovered from an airport improvement charge that will be imposed on passengers, but the TPA has not yet settled on the details of a financing plan for them, Mr. Pankratz said.
Once the federal government licenses the new airline, Mr. Deluce said it could start service to Ottawa, Chicago and New York about a year later. Its eventual goal is to serve 17 Canadian and U.S. cities 500 nautical miles or about a 90-minute-flight from Toronto.
Council approved the construction of a bridge in 1998 provided that a number of conditions, including that it be built at no cost to the taxpayer, were met.
The TPA''s aim to start construction of the bridge in March would mean that boating would be interrupted for only one summer, Mr. Pankratz said.
He expects the TPA will have met all the council''s conditions for building the bridge by the end of October.
The TPA''s plan will be considered on Oct. 24 at a joint meeting of the council''s planning and transportation committee and its economic development and parks committee.
The plan, which holds out the prospect that as many as 900,000 passengers a year could be going through the airport within a few years, has fuelled growing opposition from downtown residential groups and environmentalists, who think the airport should be turned into a park.
Mr. Deluce cautioned, however, that before the airport could become a park, the public should realize that the city would have to buy the 200 acres of land it occupies from the TPA.
With waterfront land costing $2-million to $5-million an acre, the property is worth $400-million to $1-billion, even before the cost of converting it to parkland is taken into account.