Where to begin, or, perhaps more accurately, where to end?
That’s the question Rocco Rossi’s troops flatly refuse to answer about his newest pledge to commission a study on constructing a highway tunnel between end of the Allen and an un-named location along the Gardiner.
The grinding sound you’re hearing is Jane Jacobs coming back from the dead.
Tellingly, the campaign won’t say what it will cost, who pays, where or how many other exits will be built, what will be the impact on congestion, and whether they’ve consulted the thousands of homeowners who live on the presumed path between Eglinton and Gardiner. “Those details are not even available,” said Larry Archer of Rossi’s campaign team. “We put out no numbers today because we don’t have them.”
As a plan for a new piece of urban infrastructure, Rossi’s so-called Toronto Tunnel is little more than a fantasy, and an exceedingly expensive one at that. But coupled with his other recent pronouncements — especially his plan to somehow slash the size of council — this latest gimmick reveals Rossi as a candidate so desperate for a bump that he has jettisoned all traces of good judgment in the pursuit of a fleeting news hit. True leaders are made of stronger fibre.
Indeed, the Toronto Tunnel, from where I sit, officially puts Rossi in the fringe candidate column. He’s no longer to be taken seriously, which is regrettable because Rossi’s candidacy began on a far more sober note. You may not have agreed with his plan to privatize Toronto Hydro, but it was a serious idea. The tunnel isn’t.
All this is good to know, because his judgment in advancing an impossible and destructive highway building scheme shows that Rossi would be an attention-craving mayor for whom petty politics would trump all else.
Let’s imagine a mirror image of Rossi’s Toronto Tunnel – e.g., a highway tunnel linking the 401 and the 407 and running under some unfortunate collection of Scarborough and Markham neighbourhoods. Such a proposal would never happen, because those are votes he wants. Apparently, those south of the Allen, not so much.
Interestingly, Sarah Thomson’s new bike plan, released last week, offers a highly revealing contrast to Rossi’s tunnel vision.
When it was announced early in the race, Thomson’s subway plan was rife with gaps and factual errors. But she’s clearly grown as the campaign has evolved, and her impressive bike plan reads as if it had been written by a team that’s done its homework and consulted those who know a thing or two about the topic.
“Bike City” cites the need for bike boxes, more extensive sharrows, physically segregated bike lanes on Richmond/Adelaide and University, among other pledges. Thomson’s political naiveté is still in evidence: she believes that if city council approves a four-year bike strategy, the naysayers will retreat into defeated silence.
But the broader point is that Thomson has shown herself to be a candidate who has sought to better understand the city’s current problems and how they may be solved in a sustainable, cost-effective and urban-minded manner. Rossi’s proposed tunnel, by contrast, is about reviving old fights and pumping more congestion into an already congested core. Forty years after the Spadina Expressway fiasco, it seems we may have to learn those lessons all over again.
photo by Toronto Archives