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The Globe and Mail

Gardiner closure kicks off ‘long-term pain’ for Toronto commuters

As seen from the Dufferin St bridge, traffic on the eastbound Gardiner Expressway slowly heads into the city after one lane in each direction was closed off for long term construction.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

On just the first day of a massive new traffic headache for Toronto commuters, there were nine collisions in less than two hours as long-term lane closures began on the Gardiner Expressway.

The accidents were triggered by new construction that closed one lane in each direction of the busy arterial highway between Park Lawn Road and Strachan Avenue, said Constable Clint Stibbe of Toronto Police.

"It's been a pretty rough morning for commuters and this afternoon's rush hour I'd expect will be equally as bad, if not a bit worse," he said.

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One person sustained serious injuries and was transported to hospital as a result of a "fairly substantial collision," Constable Stibbe said. Two other accidents resulted in whiplash as drivers came to sudden stops where traffic had bottlenecked. The other six collisions were fender benders "primarily in the construction area," he said.

The collisions caused additional lane closures as emergency responders dealt with the aftermath, meaning that drivers were periodically forced into just one lane.

"As a result, you're essentially dealing with highly restricted traffic at the best of times and severely restricted at the worst of times," Constable Stibbe said.

The Gardiner, which runs south of the downtown core, will have one of its three lanes – both eastbound and westbound – closed on a portion of the expressway until December 2016 for construction and bridge repairs. However, the work will stop during the Pan Am games next summer.

"Long-term pain for all commuters is probably the best way to describe it," Constable Stibbe said. "But what will be interesting to see is … if people get fed up with the construction delays if they start moving to public transit to get around it."

Despite the rough morning, Constable Stibbe said Monday was not the worst commute along the Gardiner. But, he added: "I wouldn't say it's one of the best."

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