More work is needed before the city decides whether to tear down the eastern Gardiner Expressway, says a Toronto councillor who wants to send the controversial proposal back to staff for further study.
Councillor John Parker, a member of the city’s public works committee, plans to introduce a deferral motion at the committee’s meeting on Tuesday with a request for staff to look at how the city might accommodate traffic on a reconfigured roadway while freeing up surrounding land for development.
A staff report to the committee recommends tearing down the raised highway east of Jarvis as the most cost-effective solution for dealing with the aging roadway. In its place, it recommends a revamped, eight-lane Lakeshore Boulevard.
“My own wish is that we could find a way to do without the Gardiner altogether,” Mr. Parker said on Monday night in an interview, adding, “We just can’t wish away the need for big trucks to move in and out of Toronto.” Mr. Parker said he does not know how much extra time would be needed to consider the proposal, which he believes can be done within the environmental assessment that is under way on the future of the eastern section of the highway.
Waterfront Toronto and the city are conducting an EA on the future of the highway and have looked at four options – tearing it down, maintaining it, rebuilding it or improving it. The EA concluded just two – remove or maintain – are realistic because of the cost.
What to do with one of the city’s main traffic arteries is a divisive topic, with Mayor Rob Ford and others predicting “traffic chaos” if it is taken down. Those in favour say removal is necessary to make the most of the eastern waterfront. Whatever the decision, staff are stressing that it must be made quickly because of the poor condition of the highway. But whatever council decides this spring, a vote on final plans is a year away, which will make the Gardiner an issue in the fall municipal election.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works committee, wants to maintain the expressway in its present form and says the time to study other options has come and gone.
“If there are other options, alternatives, hybrid solutions, it would have been appropriate in the last nine months to raise those ideas,” he said on Monday.