TORONTO - The federal government has cleared the way for a pedestrian tunnel to connect downtown Toronto with its island airport.

Transport Minister Denis Lebel says regulations have been changed to allow construction of the tunnel allowing people to walk to Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

At the moment, travellers must take a short ferry ride to the airport.

The Toronto Port Authority proposed building the tunnel back in 2009, saying it would help deal with the increasing number of passengers using the airport.

But the port authority's regulations had prohibited the building of a bridge or similar fixed link between the mainland and the Toronto Islands.

The new amendment to the regulations removes the prohibition as it relates to a pedestrian tunnel.

The port authority has said the cost of the tunnel will be covered by a mix of private sector financing and an airport improvement fee.

"The pedestrian tunnel will supplement the current ferry service and make it easier for passengers to get to and from the airport, and help reduce congestion for both air passengers and local residents," Lebel said Thursday.