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In the latest in a string of incidents involving the deteriorating Gardiner, a Toronto man says a chunk of concrete from the Gardiner Expressway fell and hit his mother’s car while she was driving downtown this week.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Toronto is moving up its spring inspection of the Gardiner after the mayor voiced concern about debris falling off the aging elevated expressway.

Part of the side-wall came loose on the eastern Gardiner, sending at least 10 pieces of concrete below. This was the second incident of debris from the highway reported this month, though it is not clear whether the problem is worse than in previous years.

A top official in the city's Transportation Services department said that the first of the twice-annual visual inspections would begin Wednesday. Depending on what crews find, they could speed up the review, and consider more aggressive tactics to keep the road from crumbling onto people below.

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Shortly before Mayor John Tory left for a business trip to Texas, his office released a statement saying that "public safety must be paramount." Speaking at the airport to CP24, he expanded on his concerns.

"I'm not satisfied right now, when pieces are falling off – we've had two in the last 10 days or so – that that's something that I can just sit back and say 'well, you know, hopefully good luck will be with us,'" Mr. Tory said.

The mayor said in his statement that he wanted a report looking into options that could include reinforcing the highway or using containment, a costly option involving netting.

The city normally does a visual inspection twice annually on the expressway, each of them taking about six weeks. Each year the city also does a longer engineering analysis. After several incidents of falling material in 2012, the city started what it called a "controlled chipping" program to take care of loose concrete.

The first visual inspection by city staff would normally start three to four weeks from now.

"If we wanted to accelerate we may consider additional in-house staff, if they're trained, or utilizing consultants as required," senior Transportation Services official Myles Currie said.

"If we saw areas of risk we would take the appropriate actions, which could include accelerating inspection and chipping."

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According to the city, there have been four incidents of debris reported so far this year, with three of them confirmed as coming from the Gardiner. Last year there were a total of 13 incidents, with four of them confirmed as being from the highway.

Mr. Currie did not know, though, how many of last year's incidents had occurred by mid-March, making a strict comparison impossible. And another complication is that debris tends to break off due to the freeze-thaw cycle as winter fades. An earlier or later spring can affect when these incidents occur, skewing the numbers and making month-over-month comparisons less relevant.

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