Council Update: June 2015

PW4.1 - The Gardiner Expressway

The issue of what to do with the Gardiner Expressway is coming to the June 10 and 11 City Council meeting.  After listening to experts such as Chief City Planner Jennifer Keesmaat, Former-Chief City Planner Paul Bedford, and Professor Richard Florida, reading the City’s reports, and listening to the residents of my ward, I am confident in my decision.  I will be voting to take down the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway, from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway. 

There were three main issues that both residents and I saw when examining this issue: budget, transportation, and opening our waterfront.  In all cases I believe that removing the Gardiner is the right thing to do for our City.

Budget

Keeping the Gardiner up is very expensive. It would end up costing twice the amount as taking it down, costing the City an extra $500 million. As we have seen through this year’s budget process, money is still tight at City Hall. Half a billion dollars could pay for the desperately needed Waterfront LRT, or half the repairs to Toronto Community Housing. As I have heard loud and clear from the residents of Ward 13, we are already paying too much for the Scarborough Subway extension for the next thirty years. I cannot support more overspending on transit infrastructure.

Transit

The largest issue I heard from residents in favour of the hybrid model was concerns that the removal would have negative impacts on entering and leaving the downtown core, and limit access to the Don Valley Parkway. The section being proposed for removal is only 1.7 km long and is the least used area. Replacing it with an eight lane boulevard will have minimal impacts on travel time. Cities including San Francisco, Portland and Washington DC, have all removed their elevated highways and in every case traffic continues to flow.

Keeping the Gardiner up is not a method to tackle congestion. If that is our goal, we should spend money on transportation that efficiently reduces congestion and travel times, which can be done at an equal or lesser cost.

Opening Our Waterfront

Access to our waterfront is a paramount issue for many in the City.  We have seen the success of Waterfront Toronto in recent years, with items such as Sugar Beach and the WaveDeck opening our waterfront to residents and visitors alike. Through the hybrid model, our eastern access to both the Waterfront and the Portlands would be blocked by the elevated Gardiner and its on ramps. By transforming this land into an eight lane Boulevard similar to University Avenue, we would allow for quick travel for vehicles, while having lights and a substantial, green median to allow pedestrians to cross.  As part of this land is owned by the City, we can create dynamic and diverse new communities, while removing the barriers the current elevated Gardiner has created.

The environmental impacts are also of paramount concern.  As Vice-Chair of the Board of Health, I have heard that full removal of the east Gardiner is the best option when looking at the Environmental Assessment through a Public Health lens. Removing the Gardiner will allow us to build our City, not just for today, but for a century to come.

Cities around the world, from New York to Seoul, have decided to remove their downtown elevated expressways.  It is now Toronto’s time.  I believe as Councillors, we must build a better City than we had when we were elected, and for that reason, I will be voting to remove the eastern section of the Gardiner.