Toronto is moving toward longer hours for city road repairs, a shift intended to finish the work faster but one that could boost costs by at least 20 per cent.
The Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on Tuesday unanimously backed the change, which would allow 24/7 construction in limited circumstances. The plan still must go to full council for approval.
"We need to address this," said PWIC chair Jaye Robinson. "We need to find any measure, or any tool we can, to try to address congestion and gridlock in this city. It is the most critical issue we face as a city, and anything we can do to ease gridlock is essential."
The vote comes in the wake of a push by Mayor John Tory to speed up construction on the Gardiner Expressway. The motion approved Tuesday seeks to go beyond such a case-by-case approach and establish specific guidelines.
The PWIC motion authorizes round-the-clock construction on highways and major roads where work was "not in close proximity" to homes or "would be significantly disruptive" to streetcar service. However, these extended hours would be subject to consultations with local councillors and will be done only "where appropriate."
In other circumstances, overnight work or extended daily work hours may be allowed.
"We want to look at those projects one by one and see where we can actually escalate and get the workers off the street as quickly as possible, not to affect and impact traffic," Ms. Robinson said.
Transit and congestion issues dominated last year's mayoral election and Mr. Tory has made clear his determination to do what he can to minimize restrictions on motorists. Also this week, police kicked off a mayor-backed push to enforce aggressively no-stopping rules during rush hour.
According to the motion approved Tuesday, there would be a "premium of 20 per cent or greater for the most costly measures." Steve Johnston, a spokesman for the city's Transportation Services department, could not immediately provide a dollar figure for the possible cost.
Mr. Johnston said in an e-mail that about half of the 85 projects on major roads that are in the pipeline for this year would be assessed to see if they could be sped up. A report on the feasibility of doing so should be ready for city council to review next month.
"We're doing a cost-benefit analysis, to ensure that it's not going to be extreme," Ms. Robinson said. "If it's really costly than it's not worth the money, but if we can do it within 15 to 20 per cent, that is. But if you're looking at 50 per cent that clearly isn't."