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BREAKING NEWS: Front Street Extension officially cancelled

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The Front Street Extension and the Gardiner Expressway are having their legs cut out from beneath them.

Spacing has learned that the City of Toronto and Waterfront Toronto are officially taking the Front Street Extension (FSE) off the books. Sources tell us that the provincial Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal (PIR) is reallocating their portion of the reserve funds dedicated to the FSE, thus effectively killing the much maligned road project.

The cost of the FSE was to be shared between the City of Toronto ($85-million) and the provincial and federal governments (a combined $120-million). It was believed that the City sought to have the federal government pay the difference on the rising costs to build the FSE, but that commitment has never been made. With the PIR decision, Waterfront Toronto has decided to remove the FSE as a priority project and is proceeding with other design options. An announcement from Waterfront Toronto is believed to be forthcoming.

The FSE has been a priority of Waterfront Toronto for years — the road was meant to alleviate traffic on the Gardiner Expressway west of Spadina. The construction of the FSE was also a prerequisite to tearing down portions of the Gardiner so that traffic capacity along the waterfront corridor would not be lost. Plans for the FSE would’ve seen it continue west from Bathurst — where Front Street currently ends — and terminate at Dufferin near the western boundary of the CNE.

The cancellation of the FSE will make west-enders who opposed the project breathe a sigh of relief, while it’s also believed that residents in the central waterfront area will see the dismantling of the York Street ramps.

Fred Dominelli, a developer who owns land in the path of the FSE, said he wasn’t aware of an imminent announcement about the FSE, but seemed relieved to hear that he can begin to develop his land. “I just want to get on with it,” he told Spacing. “I want to build a 25-storey building of live-work spaces on my property — if they allow me to do that, I’ll give them whatever leftover land there is so they can build a nice local road.”

However, east-enders may not be as happy about the cancellation. Resources will now focus on how to demolish the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis. Tearing down this portion of the Gardiner will result in the expansion of Lake Shore Boulevard — part of a plan originally released on September 27, 2006 by city council — with up to 10 lanes of roadway in and around the planned neighbourhoods and parks of the East Bayfront and Lower Donlands.

You can download Waterfront Toronto’s 2006 report [ 9.2mb PDF ], or a more digestible presentation format [ 2.7mb PDF ].

photo by Sam Javanrouh



  1. Did anyone else think “Wow, Hamish is going to be thrilled!” when they read this?

  2. All this talk about “traffic capacity” is why Toronto is still ruled by the car. Planners on this (and every other project – such as the Jarvis reconstruction where they don’t want to “lose capacity”) are too concerned with cars.

    Keep Lakeshore the way it is east of Jarvis – perhaps the resulting congestion will get some of those GTA commuters that use the QEW out of their cars and onto a GO Train.

  3. Can somebody explain to me how making Lakeshore even more pedestrian hostile is supposed to be an improvement on the status quo? When people call for the Gardiner to be torn down they’re not asking for those lanes be simply moved down to Lakeshore!

  4. Yes – I’m sure Hamish knew about the cancellation months ago. 🙂

  5. Maybe they’ll shunt some of that money towards the TTC to make that a more viable method of getting around, thus reducing the requirement for more traffic capacity.

  6. Earlier reports may have envisioned it torn down east of Jarvis, but the winning Lower Don Lands design used the Gardiner as a feature (a weather-sheltered pedestrian promenade next to the Keating Channel). It will be interesting to see the evaluation of which is better in that specific area — more lanes at ground level or keeping some of the traffic out of the way above.

  7. Part of the “Waterfront West Streetcar Extension – CNE to Dufferin” has this note:

    “Section from Nova Scotia Avenue to Dufferin Street: The track will be placed as close to the Gardiner Expressway corridor as possible with minimal impact to Manitoba Drive. Westerly to Dufferin Street, the horizontal alignment is shown to meander somewhat to the south. The purpose of this is to locate the alignment outside of the area required for a possible future Front Street Extension (eastbound Gardiner off-ramp).”

    I would not write off the Front Street Extension until this paragraph is altered to remove the Front Street Extension alignment, so that the streetcar will be more northerly and closer to the current Gardiner Expressway.

  8. I don’t have a problem with a 25 storey building. I do have a problem with and the variances needed to re-locate the billboards in the way of that building.

  9. This town can be trusted to do the stupid: tear down the Gardiner and leave the pedestrian-hell Lake Shore. The Gardiner isn’t the problem: Lake Shore is!

    Neither of the two smart solutions is going to happen: leave the Gardiner, but downsize Lake Shore; or remove the Gardiner, but build broad pedestrian bridges no further apart than 500m.

    For this Front Street Extension cancellation, and when the Gardiner is torn down, just ask yourself this: que bono (who benefits)? Building Queens Quay condos will be even more profitable for developers…

  10. Aidan is right. Lake Shore, particularly the dreary one-way street-level bits directly under the concrete, is and continues to be the real problem when it comes to separating the rest of downtown from the waterfront. It’s always bugged me as a progressive how municipal forces that otherwise seemed to “get it” on all sorts of other issue seemed to frustratingly closed-minded on the Gardiner issue… beating on and on about schemes like that FSE plus “Great Street” proposal that neither advanced the cause of the car, the cause of transit, nor the cause of the pedestrian.

    Hopefully the FSE’s demise might inspire some of that gang to reexamine their assumptions about how we’re going to deal with the interplay between the car and the downtown core. I, for one, have become a convert to the keep-the-Gardiner school in the last two years or so… if it’s a practical impossibility to get rid of all the single-passenger vehicles, let’s at least (a) avoid spending buttloads of money on accomodating them and (b) keep hoisting as many of them as possible up four stories and make the ground level as comfortable an urban space as possible. Besides, the sprouting of condoland has sort of given the expressway deck a sort of integration into its surroundings it lacked in its first thirty-plus decades, and kicked up a modestly-redeeming Fritz-Lang/Gotham charm that wasn’t really there when Gardiner-killing first came of age in the late 90s.

    Oh, and everyone’s forgetting that Hamish will still be able to flesh out his post’s by complaining about the Waterfront West streetcar ROW. 🙂

  11. The biggest and maybe the only thing wrong with the poor Gardiner is the malign neglect it has suffered in the care of various planning and roads departments who have attacked it with salt, bastardized its facilities and neglected its care to save a few bucks.

    In fact, before the bean counters cheaped out on their maintenance, the Gardiner was an aesthetic marvel at twilight with the inlit railings flowing in graceful arcs along a condo-less shore where the Lake was actually visible.

    It’s a fraud to call it a visual block. Most of it can’t be seen for buildings, and where it is visible you look under it, or thru it. In fact planners with vision should see that the arches of the Gardiner could make grand gateways to the downtown and to the Lake and they should be developed and landscaped to that purpose.

    As an eastender who has to cope with the ‘improved’ Lakeshore birthed by taking down the Gardiner, I say the road that cuts us off from the Lake, that encourages car-hogs, and destroys community is the Lakeshore. Reducing Danforth to a lane each way was supposedly brilliant civic design. So let’s extend it onto the Lakeshore, lets keep the cars up in the air out of sight, while we stroll among the cafes and parkettes we could enjoy where six lanes of cars roar now.

  12. thanks guys – nice to have appreciation from both sides eh?but for clarity, I’ve always been in favour of a large project on Front St. and its extension – but only for transit, and not even a local road. So I actually am sad that none of our officials and EA processes could actually seek some transit options to deflect that road cost towards transit. What happened to the thought that Miller had as a mere Councillor quoted in Now Nov 21/02 “Perhaps we should think about using the Front St. Extension itself as the beginning of a transit way. You could have the Lakeshore street cars connect along Front Street and come right downtown, which would give you rapid transit to southern Etobicoke.”
    And the WWLRT isn’t good transit – and for those who wish to go beyond the online to gasp! paper – try to fast forward to the actual EA document – yes, away from the computer to the Library – 388.46097 W1301 – where it basically undercuts what’s now poised to eat maybe $700M. 6-31 “In summary, more than one rapid transit line is required to meet the objectives of this project” ie. quicker transit in from Etobicoke. and “because the land uses which create the greatest demands are concentrated north of Harbourfront, a transit line along Front St. (or Bremner Blvd) and the railway corridor may be required in the long term and – here’s the kicker (at least to me) “the more northerly project should be the subject of a separate Environmental Assessment.” But the grandfathered FSE has never had proper comparisons to transit, the blindp have trotted out the WWLRT as Yes, We Are Too Doing Transit, though it clearly says that to truly give adequate east-west transit from Etobicoke it needs to be direct into the core for value.
    So after 16 years and who knows how many millions on Dumb Growth etc. etc. we still don’t have a good and logical analysis of the transit options, and I think there are about a dozen, from the 1949 Queen St. “subway” to the Downtown Relief Line, and including more of the GO trains that the province is smartly expanding by 20% here to give us the same congestion relief or more as the FSE for much less $.
    But GO needs a back-up, Etobicoke needs better transit, we can’t do tolling or changes to the Gardiner until we provide better transit, and the six years of asking for transit options is how the world heats up, and now the WWLRT inferior transit is held up to be a “fix”. So it’s more an opportunity lost than a true victory, and a mini-Sheppard on the lake doesn’t make me happy either.
    The Ministry actually let those who asked for an Individual EA five years ago know some weeks back that there was a five year time limit for projects – if no action, no go.
    Not that so many seem to wish to know details and nuance of carrupt travesties or asking tough questions like: are the barriers the roads or the cars on the roads?
    And yes, some have thanked me.

  13. I do look forward to not hearing about Front St ever again in the comments of totally unrelated posts.

    Enjoyed my brief visit to Toronto on the weekend and marveled at how airy the Gardiner seemed — more so than I remembered it. I agree with several of the above commenters – the Gardiner is not the problem – Lakeshore Drive and the rail underpasses are the real issue. Brighten those underpasses and make Lakeshore prettier and easier to cross.

  14. From Waterfront Toronto:

    Waterfront Toronto seeks partial removal of Gardiner Expressway

    Toronto, May 29, 2008 – Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors, at its June 12th meeting, will formally consider the partial removal of the Gardiner Expressway.

    Waterfront Toronto, working with City officials, undertook a technical study of the Gardiner Expressway/Lake Shore Boulevard Corridor in 2006. Waterfront Toronto is recommending removal of the Gardiner from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway. The approach is consistent with Waterfront Toronto’s vision to reconnect the city to its waterfront, develop better north/south pedestrian connections and improve the quality of place in the new communities under development in East Bayfront and the West Don Lands. The approach balances public and waterfront benefits with financial viability.

    “It’s time to address the long standing issue of the Gardiner”, said John Campbell, President and CEO of Waterfront Toronto. “WaterfrontToronto is advancing planning and implementation of new communities around the Gardiner. The challenge is to find realistic options that address revitalization objectives and intelligent, sustainable city-building principles including looking to transit to accommodate future growth. Ultimately, any option should help us build a more beautiful city and waterfront.”

    With Waterfront Toronto Board approval, the recommendation will be submitted to City Council for final decision.

    “This is the most practical approach and offers the greatest public benefits,” said Mayor David Miller, a member of Waterfront Toronto’s board, “Removing the eastern section of the Gardiner is an affordable step that will allow us to develop the East Bayfront, Lower Don Lands and West Don Lands properly while enhancing the public realm along Lake Shore and improving access to our waterfront. We have already seen what can be done.”

    Following Council approval, a full Environmental Assessment will be undertaken before any work begins.

  15. My take…keep the Gardiner and reduce the width of (or even remove…gasp!) the Lake Shore Blvd. Also how about painting or otherwise beautifying the concrete support columns holding up the Gardiner. Let’s have a decorating competition!

  16. As I look forward to biking long the Gardiner early Sunday morning with the Ride for Heart, I must agree with many of the posts above: Beautify the Gardiner!

    How would one do so:
    – Narrowing & traffic-calming measures on Lake Shore
    – Reinforcing cross-street & intersections along Lake Shore
    – Creating a streetscape on Lake Shore
    – Covered, all-season bike-lanes on Lake Shore
    – Celebrate the panaroma of the City from the Gardiner (Art projects viewable from the expressway)
    – Infrastructural renewal of the roadway of the Gardiner (lighting, guardrails, etc.)
    – Creation of avenue gateways with the Gardiner arches
    – Maintain the urban visions of the Gardiner as a porch in many of the waterfront plans.
    – Then begin renewal of our next great parkway: The Don Valley Parkway, which is the direct inverse of the Gardiner.

    How do you pay for this and reduce traffic pressure on the core:
    – Dismantle and develop the property adjacent to the Gardiner & Lakeshore.
    – Possiblye a car-tax for not using the Gardiner to cross the core from one side to another.

  17. with p’s comments above, how do we enable his dreams? I’d suggest it’s done with better transit that matches the travel demand – if we could assess what that is, and despite the multi-millions on the consultants, land etc, there’s not been that analysis though the TWRC says the Gardiner/L tends to be 905 cars.
    NDP’s Jack Layton said “the Front St. Extension would be an interesting example to talk about…Spending $300 million on a piece of roadway which simply will produce the demand to expand all the other pieces of roadway connected to the expansion versus how many bike lanes could we build for three hundred million dollars? (CBN Jan 19, 2005) and saying it at CBN might have helped to sink the Yellowbike program as Mr. Layton’s opposition to the FSE hasn’t been shared by other NDPers like Mr. Giambrone and Mr. Pantalone, though it would have harmed two transit systems, not that EA processes look for that either….
    It’s too bad you don’t have audio links here – I could dig up the oddyo tape clip of her position on the FSE.
    As for relevancies, we’re supposedly in a financial bind, so pardon me if I see some good programs and ideas falter or get choked because we need a bit of money in all wards of the City.
    For instance, the land bought for the FSE in camera was c. $12 mill, but we don’t have $12M to do a link between the Milton/Weston GO line as it crosses Bloor to the Dundas St. W. station.
    And I always wondered where the interest went on the $50M that was set aside for the FSE by our three gov’ts – and geez, we’re just finding out that much of the easy access to the Waterfront from the Parkdale area is taken away for the summer from some bridge repairs that in order to save a bit of money, wasn’t done in the off-season. How curious that the north-south access to the Lake was less of a Priority than a big east-west Carterial project for the mobile furnaces (aka cars) from the 905.
    I suppose someone from the Danforth might be more interested in these issues and the interconnection$ than a west-ender, but we’re all good at not seeing what’s in front of us – delusion is a solution…

  18. Hamish> downtown people use the highways too. Just saying 905 is not very accurate. In fact, although it must drive you crazy, many in Parkdale wanted the FSE.

  19. Two comments on removing Jarvis to

    1. The effect of this on the DVP could be significant. Any vehicle movements where the choice of Gardiner or DVP is currently a wash will now likely go DVP/401. This makes transit improvements in that corridor, such as finding extra track capacity on GO Richmond Hill and Don Mills LRT/Downtown Relief even more pressing.

    2. Taking down the Gardiner and making Lake Shore 8 lanes wide will make it difficult to ensure that the Cherry streetcar gets proper prioritisation as it heads through that intersection. Building the Queens Quay East LRT from Bay to Cherry just became more important I think.

  20. Cars generally make me foam-at-the-mouth angry, but you have to admit that the car/bus/taxi ride along the Gardiner into the city from the west is one of the city’s charms, as is the ride down the DVP. It’s a relic of mid-century thinking, but for all that, it’s the best limno-urban view in the city, and should be retained for that reason if no other.

    As for the others: we don’t have the transit to replace the Gardiner, it’s Lake Shore which is unpleasant to cross, removing the Gardiner is really so developers do not have to sell units with an expressway view.

    Oh yeah, we haven’t stopped developers from making the bulk of municipal campaign contributions, have we?

  21. In itself, taking down that part of the Gardiner would actually make the planned new developments in that part of the city, along with the mouth of the Don, much more pleasant. The problem, as everyone has noted, is that widening Lakeshore would remove some or all of those positive effects. Especially as traffic would likely be very fast coming off two expressways.

    One thing to ponder – one of the reasons Lakeshore is so awful is that no-one cares to make it nice because it’s below an expressway. So maybe if it’s exposed to the light of day, something can be done to improve it. But there’s no way it can possibly be decent if it’s more than three lanes each way.

    Another thing to ponder – would this have an effect on any plans to impose tolls on the Gardiner and DVP? Possibly not – you could just charge at the entrance to both off Lakeshore.

  22. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use the railway lands to build a gardner/subway line that could serve the waterfront more efficiently than some patch transit lines?You could build without much disruption to the gardner then tear it down completely.This would free up land under the gardiner without having to build more lanes for traffic.And don’t forget the bicycle lanes.Visionary planning will be necessary considering the waterfront is slated to be covered with condos.Maybe we can beg for just a little green park to remember what could have been.
    Keep up the fight Hamish the politicians aren’t listening to you or anybody else …..

  23. yes, core people do drive on the Gardiner scott d, and there are people in Parkdale who wanted the FSE, but many others were against it if the EA documentation about the big meeting at Masaryk-Cowan was accurate.
    And it is a great view of the City.
    Before any real changes we need to trim the car traffic through better transit, on both east and west ends. In the east end might include a quicker route up the DVP corridor and also to run to the northeast nearer the lake somehow. we don’t really have the flexibility to start changes. The west end loading of the Gardiner is the heaviest travel demand, yet the TWRC noted in one presentation that GO was the best fix for taking away this traffic.
    The pathetically slow pace of the city and the progressives to really provide serious thought to effective transit options doesn’t inspire optimism but at least the FSE won’t be messing up two great transit opportunities for a few hundred thousand in the west side of Caronto.
    And to be positive, maybe we could start to do some thinking about how to bring medium capacity quicker transit from York and Etobicoke into the city in effective projects.





  25. So, let me get this straight: it’s okay to spend a billion dollars on a subway to nowhere (Sheppard) that is running at 50% capacity, but we won’t add road capacity downtown because (get ready for this) too many people will use it.
    Is that what passes as logic these days?

    Look, I am going to harp on a subject that nobody seems to touch on: this city is horribly laid out. I have spent a lot of time in Vancouver. How come their council managed to set aside room for 6 lane roadways out of the city back in the 1930s, and our Silly Hall never got around to doing that?

    Finally, in the late ’40s, Council set about rectifying the problem with an expressway grid that would have carried traffic around the city efficiently, if it had been completed. Instead, we have gridlock in all directions, every day, including weekends.

    There are so many things wrong with the existing roadwork that I want to claw my eyes out just thinking about it.

    What is our solution? Cancel improvements. Tear down the Gardiner. Madness.

    I have been hearing about the demise of the automobile since I was drawing anti-pollution and population boom posters in grade 1. The auto is not going anywhere. This is not Mumbai or Beijing. We are barely 3 million people, yet we claim to be ‘world class.’ Bullocks.

    Why are we pandering to the same usual suspects, who show up at the same town hall meetings and spew the same boring rhetoric? 6% walk or bicycle to work. 16% take the TTC. 76% drive. Why are we pandering to the 6%?
    This is not a commuter problem. Stop turning this into a 905 versus 416 diatribe. The Gardiner/DVP grinds to a halt on a Sunday.

    Our Council is being criminal, absolutely criminal in the negligence of transportation in this city! Clearly they are waiting for the Gardiner to fall down before doing anything about the roads in this city. And what is it going to do with resale values of all those lovely condos, once the true horror of getting around this city is realized?

    The Front Street extension was a joke anyway. Widen the Gardiner, widen the DVP and just be done with it.

    We want a lovely promenade to a revitalized Cherry Beach? Have any of the writers on this thread been to Ashbridges Bay, Bluffers Park or Sunnywide? Goose sh#t everywhere. Beavers are hacking down the trees at Ashbridges Bay. Birds have denuded half the trees at the Leslie St. spit, but we want to spend more $$$ on pretty parks and promenades. Have any of you actually SWAM in Lake Ontario? Yech. I don’t care what the water quality ‘experts’ say. It’s disgusting.

    This is a city first, not Algonquin. We need to make this city liveable for everyone, and motorists are people, too.

    Or has Council forgotten that?

  26. […] plan to convert the westernmost end of Front Street into a Lakeshore-styled expressway has died before — but like Jason Voorhees himself, kept coming back for another round of obituary-ish […]