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Toronto drivers: Get ready for up to 20 years of Gardiner construction

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Toronto traffic has become so congested by construction projects, firefighter Tim Shuff can now bike the 38 kilometres to work from Leslieville on the east side of the city to Mississauga in close to the same amount of time it takes him to drive. He has that option, as a triathlete. For most Toronto drivers, the commuting alternatives are shrinking and temperatures are rising.

Drivers took to Twitter last week to call for the heads of city transportation staff when signs went up suddenly to indicate "intermittent" lane closings on Lake Shore Boulevard until July.

They won't be amused to learn, it's only the beginning. While some commuters are under the impression that the chaos will be resolved with the 2015 Pan Am Games, Gardiner repairs could take anywhere from eight to 20 years depending on which plan is approved, city officials say. Frank Clarizio, director of engineering and construction services, says that the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway is seven kilometres long; the portion undergoing lane closings until December, 2016 is less than a kilometre. Beyond the deck and median rehabilitation on the remaining six kilometres of elevated roadway, the 11-kilometre at-grade section needs significant work. Further, 32 structures such as bridges, retaining walls and culverts are slated for rehabilitation, with many requiring lane closures of their own.

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Clarizio says that the medians are being worked on day and night, but that due to low productivity and noise considerations, the deck replacement is being done only during 12-hour day shifts. Meantime, the city has also committed $70-million to other road repairs. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee, describes the backlogged work as "the coming wave." "We've been deferring maintenance to satisfy previous budgets for years," he says. "The day of reckoning is here."

When the Lake Shore lanes were reduced, mayoral candidate John Tory criticized the "lack of thought or planning by city officials" and called the road situation a "world-class mess." Minnan-Wong says extensive planning goes on to make sure utility work and road maintenance are co-ordinated for minimal disruption. "Ninety-five per cent of the time we find ways to work things out, but you only hear about the five per cent of times that don't work out," he says.

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