This post has been compiled by Matthew Blackett and Robin Chubb
At a news conference today at Waterfront Toronto headquarters, it was officially announced that the Gardiner Expressway will be dismantled between Jarvis and the Don Valley Parkway, while the Front Street Extension (FSE) has been put out to pasture. You can find today’s media briefings and past reports on the Waterfront Toronto web site.
Mayor David Miller, who is in Quebec City at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, took part in the press conference via telephone and declared, “the Front Street Extension will not proceed.” Waterfront Toronto board chair Mark Wilson said that some of the money currently dedicated to the FSE would now be focused on public realm improvements in the area with other funds to go towards dismantling the Gardiner.
Waterfront Toronto will discuss both the Gardiner and FSE at their next board meeting June 12. If the board agrees with the plans, city council will be asked at it’s July meetings to approve the $10-million Environmental Assessment (EA) to dismantle the Gardiner.
The EA process to demolish the eastern part of the Gardiner east of Jarvis will take between three to four years. Construction of the boulevard would take up to four more years. This new road is expected to be eight lanes wide and will add two minutes to a commute for a person driving from Spadina to the DVP at peak hours. Speed will be reduced by 12%. “I think it’s fair to say that an extra two minutes to help make a great city is worth it,” said Miller.
Campbell said Waterfront Toronto’s traffic modelling analysis shows that the eastern part of Gardiner and Lake Shore is only used to capacity for briefs periods of time during the day. For instance, Yonge and York Mills (both arterial roads) have up to 80,000 car trips a day, while Lake Shore east of Jarvis (a road considered a class above arterial) only has 10,000 car trips.
“This is the least utilized part of the Gardiner, and its ugly,” said Waterfront Toronto CEO John Campbell. “We believe we can create an urban street that will dramatically improve the East Bayfront area.”
Wilson, the board’s chair, said, “this section of the Gardiner has too much capacity, and it’s expensive to maintain. This decision is about rationalizing our resources.” This response prompted reporters to ask why wasn’t demolition an option further west into the central waterfront areas. “What we’re proposing today is doable,” said Campbell. “We can afford it. We can’t afford the billions it will cost to dismantle the whole thing. That will be a question for the next generation to answer.”
Campbell said he believes the cost of the project will cost between $200-million to $300-million, but an accurate cost estimate will be revealed during the EA process. Both Campbell and Wilson were unclear where the funds will come for the demolition, though Mayor Miller said that City already pays about $10-million a year in upkeep of the Gardiner, so those funds will eventually be put towards the demolition. It is expected the provincial and federal governments will pay for the other two-thirds of the cost.
On the topic of road tolls paying for part of the demolition and boulevard construction, Miller deflected the question and said that the regional transportation agency Metrolinx is studying road pricing, and the City will have to wait to find out if tolls are an option.
In these images released today, Waterfront Toronto gives us an idea of what the demolition of the Gardiner may represent at street level. The added benefit (not shown in the renderings) is that the railway corridor is not as wide by the time it gets to Jarvis, meaning there could be a window of hope for a relatively pleasant passage down to the lake, all of a sudden making Waterfront Toronto’s proposed developments at West Don Lands, East Bayfront and in the future at the Portlands, seem far more connected to the core of the city and potentially more vibrant. Could this be a great day in the history of Toronto’s waterfront or just another half-assed, half-baked scheme?