Toronto city Councillor Adam Vaughan is offering up a third option in the debate over whether to tear down the deteriorating Gardiner Expressway or leave it up and try to fix it: sell it and pay for its maintenance through tolls.
The councillor for Trinity-Spadina said Thursday he isn’t explicitly arguing for the sale of the downtown roadway, but he intends to introduce a motion as part of Monday’s budget debate that asks the city to look at the implications of selling both the Gardiner and the Don Valley Parkway.
There are limited options for the Gardiner, especially for the section east of Jarvis Street, which is expected to be unsafe to drive on in six years.
The city can either spend a projected $210-million over 10 years to replace that two-kilometre stretch or spend more than $35-million in timber bracing, deck patching and wall repair to keep it up, while pondering ways to tear it down – a task priced in 2008 at $300-million. The projected cost of completely refurbishing the entire expressway is $505-million over 10 years.
Mr. Vaughan’s motion asks the city to determine how much money might be made off its potential sale and how the funds – which would vary depending on the number of the tolls and the way in which a deal with the private sector is structured – might be used for transit projects. He said he’s been told the city’s profit could be as high as $8-billion.
The move would save taxpayers’ money and a private partnership could open up the possibility of accessing federal money set aside for public-private sector infrastructure partnerships, he said.
“It’s an idea worthy of being explored. A half-a-billion-dollar bill to taxpayers is a lot of money and if we can find a new way to finance it, it might not only take the pressure off the taxpayer but it might also … be enough to build the other transit lines that we need in this city,” Mr. Vaughan said.
Despite the limited options, not everyone supports the idea to sell.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the city’s public works committee, said he’s open to the idea, but it doesn’t really fix the problem at hand.
“Any consideration or transaction would take some time to complete and we cannot continue to let the Gardiner crumble,” he said, and pointed out the city would also need to look at the potential economic costs associated with privatizing the expressway.
“A toll would serve as a disincentive for business and families to come into the city,” Mr. Minnan-Wong said.
Still, he’s not completely opposed: “I’m open to exploring the idea, but it’s a little bit more complicated than simply putting up a for-sale sign.”
Councillor Paula Fletcher said she doesn’t think the motion will get enough time during budget debates and it should be dealt with at a special meeting, similar to the one held when Toronto discussed bringing in the new streetcars.
“If people in Toronto knew that council is being asked to make a decision on a $500-million price tag with only three minutes to ask questions at the budget committee and three minutes to speak, I think they’d be shocked,” Ms. Fletcher said. “[There’s] something very wrong with that.”
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