Gardiner Expressway faces possible demolition

By Kris Scheuer

Should the city tear down the Gardiner Expressway, replace it, improve it or leave it as is? That’s the multi-million-dollar question.
The city’s executive committee has approved the terms of reference for an environmental assessment to study options for a section of the expressway between the Don Valley Pkwy. and Jarvis St. 
Nothing’s been decided yet, but the message heard loud and clear is any changes will impact not just area residents but anyone who takes connecting routes to and from the Gardiner. 
Simon Wookey worries if the city tears down the expressway the traffic impact will be felt across Toronto.“The Gardiner is a very emotional issue,” Wookey told the committee. “Some describe it as an evil that needs to be gotten rid of.” 
He cautioned council against tearing down the highway structure.
“Traffic like water flows,” he said. “One has to be very careful about the effects upstream as well as downstream. The Gardiner is not just a singular road it’s a continuous road that runs from the 404 to the Don Valley Parkway … to the QEW.”
Don Valley East councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong has no doubt this issue is close to the minds of people who live north of the lake.
He sent out a newsletter to all the residents in his ward in May. In it he pointedly asked, “Do you support tearing down the Gardiner that will cost taxpayers’ over $400 million?”
Of the 171 respondents as of June 3, some 91 percent said no. 
The study of all options is costing $8 million, Minnan-Wong said, adding it’s a waste of money.
“The mayor has decided he wants the Gardiner taken down. The (city) staff will do his bidding, so I don’t have a lot of confidence that everyone will be heard,” Minnan-Wong told the Town Crier.
“I am concerned people who use the Gardiner and Lakeshore to commute won’t be heard,” he said. “Over 100,000 people use this road everyday. Their opinions count.”
Thousands of people have been consulted just to determine terms of reference for the environmental assessment, according to a staff report. If the city and the province’s environment ministry give the nod to start the assessment, it will begin early next year and be completed in late 2011.
Regardless of the results of the study, Eglinton-Lawrence councillor Howard Moscoe wants to plow ahead and tear down the Gardiner.
“It’s a concrete dinosaur,” he said after the committee meeting. “Elevated highways are being torn down in just about every city in the world. They act as barriers to the waterfront. And a barrier to traffic as you can’t turn left or right on the highway until you hit an (off) ramp.”
Moscoe said when the city tore down a section of the Gardiner between the DVP and Leslie St. people predicted chaos but that never happened.
“Everyone expected the sky would fall and it didn’t,” said Moscoe. “We are conducting a study and I expect in the end we will tear down the Gardiner and traffic will improve and neighbourhoods around will be revitalized.”
While Mayor David Miller told the committee he wants this portion of the highway removed he added, “We are simply proposing today to study the possible options.”
The four main options including upgrading and providing a better urban environment underneath the elevated highway, removing it in favour of street level roads, replacing it with another expressway either at or above grade or maintaining the Gardiner as is.
Read the city staff report.
(Originally published June 11/09 at http://www.mytowncier.ca)

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