Home renovations are a challenging process that requires time, money, and hiring a general contractor to help. The City of Toronto is facing its own renovation challenges when it comes to the Gardiner Expressway East. Will it be demolished, or will the city spend millions renovating? While council decides on a major decision, we’ll give you the details.
What you need to know
It’s no surprise that the Gardiner East has been problematic over the last several years. From bits of concrete falling off, to the road itself eroding over years and years of use. If this were happening in your home, you’d probably call a contractor to conduct some renovations! So what repair options are out there for the highway?
On Wednesday, Toronto City Council will hold a vote on the fate of the Gardiner. There are two proposed solutions to fix it:
- Hybrid. Keep most of the expressway intact, but relocate some of the ramps. This option could cost about $336 million and take several years to complete. That means the Gardiner will be open amid construction.
- Boulevard. Dubbed the removal option, it entails six years of construction and removing the elevated portion of the highway. This could cost $240 million and a lot of traffic headaches for commuters.
Naturally, the city is divided among the two proposed solutions. But before we get into the debate, here are the reasons driving it in the first place:
- Commuter times;
- Cost of the project;
- Cost to maintain.
Those in favour of the renovate option argue that there will be lower commute times (who doesn’t want that?) in comparison to the boulevard option expressed below and that far outweighs the cost of maintaining the elevated expressway. Not only that, but the removal of some off-ramps will give the city an opportunity to redevelop certain city areas, which will lead to a substantial investment in the area.
Here’s how the option plays out:
- Maintains elevated stretch of the Gardiner west of the Don Valley Parkway;
- The elevated deck needs replacing;
- On and off ramps would be demolished;
- New ramps would be built in replacement;
- Construction will take up to six years.
The second option city councillors may contend with is removing the elevated section of the Gardiner and replacing it with a boulevard. Its proponents argue that in the long-run, it will save taxpayers more money and attract over $2 billion in investments. Here’s a breakdown of what would happen should the city vote for this option:
- The entirety of the elevated expressway will be torn down and replaced with an eight-lane, ground level boulevard.
- The lanes on the DVP will be reduced from eight to six.
- There will be new on and off ramps that will connect the boulevard to the DVP.
- Some commuters may see a difference of three to five extra minutes in travel time.
Where does everyone sit on the debate?
Jon van Nostrand, founding principal of planningAlliance, an organization comprised of over 80 professional staff that includes planners and urban designers, says he’s on the hybrid side of the debate.
With the reconstruction the hybrid way, drivers will only have to cross two to three lanes, whereas the boulevard option requires vehicles to cross a six-lane and four-lane street.
“It’s quite a big difference,” he says. “In the first case, you can get across in one light and in the second, by no means is it easy. Some people will probably need two stop light cycles to get through. You’re stuck in the median.”
While Nostrand classifies this problem as a minor one, he stresses the barrier that will prevent people from moving easily through the city and waterfront.
“We have gone ahead and invested hundreds of millions of dollars of public money to improve the whole Queens Quay, $150 million in parks,” Nostrand explains. “We’ve taken half the traffic off Queens Quay, a block north on an 8 to 10-lane expressway doesn’t make any sense.”
Norstrand paints a picture of what the boulevard option could look like: You’re driving along the Don Valley Parkway (DVP), you turn towards the city, take a ramp down to ground level and join the traffic on Lakeshore with four stop lights within one mile and back up to the Gardiner.
“It’s absurd to think that channel there is not a barrier. I just can’t see it and how that’s going to be three minutes shorter?”
Toronto Mayor John Tory is in support of the hybrid option. Here’s what he had to say:
We reached out on Twitter to ask what people thought about the options. Brandon Donnelly, a city-based architect and real estate developer supports the boulevard option, sent us a link to a petition to remove the problematic highway.
Nostrand classifies the boulevard as a barrier, but supporters of the boulevard say the Gardiner is the barrier and that by removing it, “it would allow the city to best realize its goals of creating a beautiful and globally competitive waterfront that is well connected to downtown and accessible to all.”
The petition further reads: “Removing the Gardiner East would allow the city to fully realize the plans for the Keating Channel waterfront community (the area of the waterfront where the Gardiner East runs directly adjacent to the water). Removing the Gardiner East would “unlock” 12 acres of city-owned land for development, which is expected to generate approximately $176 million in new revenue for the city (versus $39 million for the hybrid option).”
This video outlines the main factors to consider in making a decision:
Regardless of the option, renovations must be underway
Norstrand points out that 90 per cent of the Gardiner will remain elevated, which means there’s a chance to improve it.
“We aren’t going to be able to take down the rest of it anyway, which is why you’re driving down and coming back up again.”
Norstrand says whichever option the city picks, they should make it the best version of the highway possible, for a lot of road maintenance is needed from a structural perspective. Otherwise, it will continue to deteriorate overtime and the city will find itself facing yet another problem.
The question is: where do you sit on the debate?
And if there’s a lesson to be learned in the debate, when you see something breaking down in your home, don’t wait until it’s too late. Instead, hire a professional to get the problem solved immediately.
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