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Cars drive in traffic on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

MARK BLINCH/Reuters

Toronto city council has tried again to kill the persistent dream of burying the downtown highway across the waterfront, rejecting a call for more study on an idea staff said should be abandoned.

The possibility of moving the Gardiner Expressway into a tunnel has been around for decades, cropping up periodically as a way to remove the barrier to the lake and open up land for development. But the price could be eye-watering and the costly experiences of some other cities have created a powerful resistance to the idea at city hall.

On Friday, council decided by a simple show of hands – skipping the recorded vote used for more contentious issues – to receive a staff report counselling against a tunnel. Receipt of the report effectively shelves it, meaning there will be no further action.

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The municipal politicians had earlier voted 30-4 against a motion by Councillor Anthony Perruzza, one of the few tunnel backers on council, to have one more study into the feasibility of pursuing the idea. But the proposal was widely dismissed. Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong called the tunnel "fanciful" and Councillor Paula Fletcher said "that ship has sailed."

But Mr. Perruzza said this was not a final defeat, arguing that it had been too long since the issue was studied properly. He pledged to continue to make the case.

The staff report said burying the Gardiner would entail enormous additional expense because it would take so long to approve and build that the existing highway would need costly repairs in the meantime. Estimates have put the cost of a tunnel above $10-billion. Supporters say it could be done for half that.

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