Toronto mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa says there is time to change course and get rid of the Gardiner East Expressway than rebuild it. He wants to cancel the “wasteful” rebuild of the Gardiner East Expressway and instead replace the elevated highway with an at-grade boulevard.
In a press release, the urban planner expressed his commitment to “follow the best practices of cities around the world when tearing down the elevated expressway.”
Penelosa, a former head of parks in Bogotá, Colombia, says his proposal would open up 5.4 acres of new land worth an estimated $450 million. He also said 8,000 new homes could be built there, while generating $1 billion in savings and revenue. Additionally, Peñalosa noted that the plan would still allow the Don Valley Parkway to connect to the Gardiner Expressway, west of Jarvis Street.
“Every world-class city is removing its elevated highways, yet John Tory plans to spend a billion dollars on dilapidated and outdated infrastructure when people’s top priority is new housing and public services,” he said. “By removing Gardiner East, we have an opportunity to create a destination, rather than that part of town being just a stopover.”
Seven years ago, the Toronto City Council voted 24-21 to implement a ‘hybrid’ option for Gardiner East that would see the expressway moved 100 meters north and rebuilt from Don Valley Parkway to Jarvis Street at a cost. of approximately $919 million over a 100-year period.
The project was initially expected to take six years to complete, including about a year and a half of traffic diversions. Several entrance and exit ramps will also be relocated as part of the plan.
Tory strongly supported this option, which she said would stop congestion and prevent lost productivity.
Peñalosa said his proposal is feasible since so far “no contracts have been signed to build the Gardiner hybrid since it was approved.”
For its part, in statements provided to CP24.com, the mayor’s re-election campaign reiterated its commitment to the ‘hybrid’ plan for Gardiner East.
“While others try to reopen nearly decade-old debates in an effort to change or delay major transit, transportation and infrastructure projects, the Mayor is focused on moving Toronto forward and doing great things,” spokeswoman Jenessa Crognali wrote.
“(Tory) is committed to the historic $28 billion-plus transit (expansion) project he secured for the city while protecting critical transportation infrastructure.”
Crognali went on to note that Tory’s “priority is to keep people moving in Toronto, whether it’s driving, public transit or cycling” as the city grows with “transit mega-projects and housing developments under construction.”
“Keeping projects moving is how we keep people moving,” he said, noting that more than 32 million vehicle trips are made annually on the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway.
In 2015, councilors also considered tearing down the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway and replacing it with an eight-lane Lake Shore Boulevard. That option, costing $461 million, ultimately failed in a 19-26 vote on the council. Nearly all downtown representatives preferred this option, arguing that the hybrid plan will be more expensive and would sacrifice the opportunity to open up new land for development and revitalize a key stretch of the city’s waterfront.
The ramps from the Gardiner Expressway to Lake Shore Boulevard at Logan Avenue were demolished in the summer of 2021 as part of the project.
Reconstruction work on the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway, from Cherry Street to DVP, is not expected to begin until 2026.
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