The fate of the crumbling Gardiner Expressway has two councillors usually on opposing sides talking up the benefits of private-sector investment.
The city's budget committee asked staff to report on a possible sale or lease of the aging expressway and the Don Valley Parkway and the use of tolls to pay for repairs and transit. Staff also were asked to examine the option of replacing the elevated highway with a tunnel in their report expected in May.
While Monday's request was initiated by Councillor Adam Vaughan, Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, has long talked of the need to involve the private sector in infrastructure financing, particularly in the case of subways.
"I'm glad that Councillor Vaughan is taking a page out of my playbook that I've been preaching for the last two years," said Mr. Ford. The Etobicoke councillor speculated on the change of heart, telling reporters, "Maybe he got hit over the head over the weekend, maybe a coconut fell on his head and he realized, 'hey, the only way I can get things going …' " before his assistant cut off media questions.
Mr. Vaughan, frequently mentioned as a possible rival to Mayor Rob Ford in a possible by-election, denied he was advocating the use of public-private partnerships with an eye to any future election campaign. His plan, he said, was different from the one advanced earlier this year by the Ford administration because its aim was to help fund a system, not pay for one subway line. "I see this as an opportunity to manage assets in a creative way," Mr. Vaughan said. "This is about building a better city."
He estimated the two highways could fetch as much as $8-billion.
Under the motion endorsed by the budget committee, proceeds from a sale or lease would be used to pay for repairs of the expressway and to fund transit. Since the spring several chunks of concrete have fallen from the raised highway, including another one last week, and staff have warned the section east of Jarvis will be unsafe to drive on within six years unless major reconstruction work is completed. City staff are proposing a 10-year plan to invest $505-million in repairing the highway.