Skip to content

Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Dale Duncan at City Hall: March 15, 2007

Read more articles by

Front Street face-off

Here’s a question: what does building the Front Street Extension have to do with improving the waterfront? Ask Adam Vaughan and he’ll say: nothing at all. Ask Joe Pantalone and he’ll say: absolutely everything.

That both councillors are so steadfast in their opposing views illustrates the controversy surrounding the proposed extension from Bathurst west to Dufferin. Pantalone insists that without it, we’ll never be able to get rid of the “offending” Gardiner Expressway. Vaughan vehemently argues that the extension will wipe out the neighbourhoods around it overnight.

March 7’s council meeting saw the two go head-to-head, with the former news reporter working himself into a well-articulated fit over the $150 million set aside for the project. His argument: the longer these funds are not used, the more they will depreciate in value. And since final approval of the extension has yet to happen (it depends on the outcome of environmental assessments), it makes sense to spend the money now on real waterfront revitalization projects, such as green space and public transit. He put forward a motion to scrap the $1 million allocated for the project in 2010 in the capital budget. “It’s basically money stuffed under a mattress,” he argues. “Let’s put it to work now.”

Pantalone says Vaughan’s motion reeked of political opportunism. “I personally found it really frustrating,” he tells me over the phone. “He does not seem to care whether it would kill off the Gardiner. That, to me, is not good city-building.”

The two-kilometre extension of Front Street has been on the city’s books since 1983. It was first planned as a local road to provide east-west access. In 2000, plans ballooned into a six-lane thoroughfare to draw traffic off the Gardiner Expressway. Now the extension is to be a city street complete with bike lanes, sidewalks, public transit and landscaping. One of its objectives, however, remains off-loading traffic from the Gardiner Expressway — and therein lies the problem.

In the end, Pantalone won council’s support to delay voting on Vaughan’s motion until debate on whether to take down the Gardiner Expressway happens later this year. But the deputy mayor only won by a measly two votes — among his supporters were Rob Ford, Doug Holyday and Giorgio Mammoliti. When the mayor’s right-hand man is relying on his biggest enemies to keep his pet project alive, he must start wondering. If there’s one thing Pantalone can depend on, it’s that Vaughan will strike again.

Rob Ford’s bleeding heart

“I compare riding a bike to swimming with sharks. You can do it for a while, but pretty soon you’re going to be bitten… Roads are built for buses and cars and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.” Ford’s motion to scrap funding for bike lanes from the capital budget lost 39-3. Councillor Doug Holyday and Case Ootes were his only supporters.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Spacing’s managing editor Dale Duncan writes a weekly column on City Hall for Eye Weekly. You can also read Eye’s daily City Hall blog.



  1. Why aren’t we talking about building a better rail system close to the water to take traffic off the Gardiner? Matthew Day (ran for council in the last election) had a few good ideas – check them out:

  2. At this point, keeping the Gardiner seems cheap compared to building the Pantalone expressway. With all the condos towers built south of Front, you hardly notice the Gardiner any more. Day by day the Gardiner becomes less of a barrier to waterfront revitalisation.

    The left on Council needs to stop their mindless cowtowing to the Deputy.

  3. “Vaughan vehemently argues that the extension will wipe out the neighbourhoods around it overnight.”

    I like Adam but he is wrong here. It because there are so many new neighbourhoods springing up all along King to Front that the extension is needed. People forget that it will also serve locals residents and businesses who wouldnt use the Gardiner anyway. Traffic and transit is being chocked for lack of roads in the area and there simply needs to be more roads.

  4. If you talk to Adam V about this, he is supportive of a local road, not an arterial road that takes the overflow of Gardiner traffic. There is a very real need, like you say, for the new hoods to have aplace to alleviate congestion, but the FSE is not for the local ‘hoods, its for the Gardiner. That is rarely, if ever, discussed.

  5. Of course one could go on about all of this but major points are:
    we need to look at about ten transit options in a comprehensive and logical way, starting with another GO train or two, including Day’s ideas, plus the 1949 Queen St. subway concept too. I favour a Front St. transitway which would link to Etobicoke, increase linkages to the Liberty Village area, and not be as costly nor as ineffective a milk run in the core as the West Waterfront LRT plan. There’s a lot of money that might be tossed around down here, and don’t we need to pinch the millions to make sure they’re well used?
    This includes looking at the local road too: qui bono and how much will it cost? Do we really need another local road since Liberty St. now links between Strachan and Dufferin, at no charge to the public? vs. my guesstimate is between $90 and $140 million for the new local Front St. which will take a long, long time to get back out of increased property values.
    GO isn’t happy with the road project either.

  6. If the proposed Front Street extension is anything like that Fort York roadway, you’ve got to be scared.

  7. First, regarding Ford’s comments: “My heart bleeds when someone gets killed. But at the end of the day, it’s their own fault.” Hilarious! This guy has to get into doing more eulogies!
    In fact, we should do his: “My heart bleeds, blah, blah, blah. Mais enfin, he should not have eaten so many ACC hot dogs.”

    As for this Front Street extension, which has been going on for so long, I’m surprised Pantalone hasn’t given up the fight. He’s a political animal, he might be wasting his resources.
    A local road might be useful but it will still have to involve an elevated roadway that will essentially create another barrier to the waterfront, no?
    Another major concern is the landowners in the area that is scheduled for the extension. Some former city councillors and others long ago purchased property in the area in anticipation of the city’s plans to extend the roadway. It bothers me a little, as it has a supect air but maybe nothing else, that these people will be rewarded handsomely for speculation if it goes through. Ah well, wouldn’t be the first time. Perhaps anger at speculators is simply envy we didn’t think of it first. Besides, it’s a good story, with a Sopranos-redevelopment angle.

  8. Build a subway – not a glorifed streetcar – along the northwest rail corridor – from Union to Pearson, Woodbine and Humber College. An existing corridor is in place, virtually no tunneling will be necessary. It will also replace this silly Blue 22 idea, which few people will take and will end up in financial ruin.

    Keep the Gardiner – anyone who thinks everybody will abandon their cars is a misinformed naive idiot. I know a girl who constantly bemoans “right wing policies”, urges people to “vote NDP” and shows concern about the environment. She also drives daily from Pickering to work at Yonge and College, when there’s a GO Train in place. People are like this. They’re hypocrits. They can say all they want about helping the planet, but when push comes to shove, many don’t change. That’s life. Deal with it.

    I hope more and more suburbanites do move to an improved transit system, but because we live in a democratic society (that’s right, Toronto council) people are free to get places however the hell they want. Therefore the current Gardiner capacity must be kept in place, not reduced. That said, I truly believe most of this anti-car rhetoric from the left – at its root – has little to do with the environment and more about the capitalist, American, individualistic image the free-moving motorcar represents.

  9. I’m an urbanite who regularly endorses use of public transit and often cries for better service and more service in under serviced areas about the city, which includes Liberty Village and the former rail lands. I find it ridiculous how 20 plus years have passed and the Front St. Extension debate is still going on. Does anything ever get done in this city or is all Toronto is good at is arguing about every person’s opinion about a proposed project and doing endless studies that never materialize into anything. I understand huge mistakes have been made in this city’s past which has virtually destroyed entire neighbourhoods, but we’re getting smarter about city planning, at least I like to think so.

    I require a vehicle for work purpose and driving is an absolute necessity for me. Are we forgetting the people who have no choice but to drive for work? I do not own a car, but I have taken advantage of alternatives like Auto Share. I take public transit every day and feel there needs to be an emphasis on transit, but like someone else said, people will drive no matter what. When I first heard about the Front St. Extension, I said thank God! Getting to areas (Niagara Neighbourhood) other than downtown proper is an absolute pain and a waste of precious time. I’ve only lived in Toronto for about 8 years now, but I too have grown to call it home and have concern for its hopefully prosperous future.