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ONTARIO AT WORK - Special Report

Airport terminal almost ready for take off

By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun

As construction nears completion on the first phase of the new passenger terminal at the Toronto Lester B. Pearson International Airport, the number of tradespeople working on site has reached an all-time high.

More than 1,800 tradespeople are currently on site -- up from 1,600 in February.
The efforts of more than 1,800 different tradespeople are involved in the construction of a new passenger terminal at Toronto International Airport.

"The number has been building up," says Michael O'Malley, senior construction manager for PCL/Aecon Joint Venture, the construction managers for the new terminal building. "We're now at peak manpower."

Many finishing trades have been on site since January, concentrating on interior construction, including drywalling, painting, tiling and flooring.

Security systems and fire alarms are being installed in preparation for the terminal's opening this fall.

The terminal development project will replace Terminals 1 and 2 with a single new terminal, known as T1-New. It will be completed in four stages, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority reports.

Construction began in November 1998, and the terminal scheduled to open in October. T1-New will be capable of handling 33 to 35 million passengers a year.

The new terminal building will feature five "piers" linked to a common passenger processing area. Each pier consists of a large concourse containing retail and gate holdrooms to serve passengers. The central processing area consists of four main levels.

PCL/Aecon Joint Venture was awarded the $1.8-billion contract for the new terminal building in January 1999, and is one of several companies working on the $4.4 -million project, O'Malley reports. Other work includes construction of an eight-level parking garage that will hold 12,000 vehicles.

The huge number of tradespeople involved in construction of the new terminal building has presented several challenges, including parking.
A new passenger terminal at Toronto International Airport.

"We came up with a plan for off-site worker parking and bus the workers to the site," O'Malley says. "The workers also start at staggered hours, which mitigates traffic to and from the site."

Though some predicted a skilled trades shortage, all work continues to be completed by only unionized workers. "We work very closely with the (Toronto Central Ontario Building & Construction Trades Council)," says O'Malley. "In return for using only pre-qualified union firms, the trades council has worked with me to show the industry that we could do it together...This relationship is unique in this industry."

Because of the enormity of the workforce, PCL/Aecon Joint Venture established three separate health and safety committees: civil work (largely exterior work, include the concrete apron and roadways), processor and liner, and piers D and E.

The Construction Safety Association of Ontario recently awarded the project the John M. Beck Safety Award for its commitment to health and safety.
The new terminal building is being constructed in four stages. The final stage will be phased in as demand dictates. When complete, the terminal building will contain:
  • A gross floor area of 82 acres.
  • A total of 258 passenger check-in counters in the main departure hall.
  • A baggage-handling system with 15 km of conveyor belt that can handle 18,000 bags per hour.
  • Enough concrete to build two CN towers, and more than three-and-a-half times the amount of steel used to build the Eiffel Tower.
    -- Greater Toronto Airports Authority

  • "All projects I'm aware of only have one (health and safety) committee," O'Malley says.

    PCL/Aecon Joint Venture held a family day last fall, attended by about 4,000 people.

    "It was to allow workers to bring their spouses and families to show off what they had been doing," O'Malley says. "Tradesmen love what they do."

    While the amount of work created for on-site tradespeople is impressive, it's just one part of the picture, reports Jay Peterson, business manager of the trades council.

    "The number of tradespeople on site is just a snapshot of the total number involved in the project. For every construction worker you see, there are seven behind him," Peterson says. "It's been a huge economic driver."

    (Linda White ( is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)

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