This morning I was at the technical media briefing for the Environmental Assessment Terms of Reference report for the Gardiner Expressway that will be tabled with the City’s executive committee tomorrow and the City Council on July 6/7. The draft outlines what exactly the environmental assessment will be studying, the methods it will be using as well as its project goals.
I’ve summarized the five goals outlined in the draft:
1. Revitalize the Waterfront – includes urban design excellence, increase tourism, make new amenities for both regional and local users, and approach the project as “an opportunity for City-building” in a global context
2. Reconnect the City with the Lake – create visual, physical and cognitive connections, design attractive public realm, connect downtown and new waterfront communities
3. Balance Modes of Travel – incorporate the likely modal shifts that will occur in transit in the coming decades
4. Achieve Sustainability – among other things, promote social engagement/interaction, integrate ecology and natural systems with urbanism, contribute to the improvement of public health including air quality
5, Create Value – using revitalization as a catalyst for investment and good development that “maximize net economic and environmental benefits”
Four broad alternatives will be studied in regards to the Gardiner Expressway:
1. “Do Nothing” – which, despite the sound of the title, entails $50 million over ten years in maintenance and upkeep
2. Improve – modify the Gardiner as well as Lake Shore Boulevard with “architecturally significant ‘wrapper’ around the structure,” possible relocation of some supports and on-ramps, etc
3. Replace – this includes potentially turning Lake Shore Boulevard into some sort of a hybrid street, possibly burying the tunnel or building a new elevated expressway above the rail corridor
4. Remove – expressway eliminated and replaced with a “lower-capacity, lower-speed facility” that would reconfigure Lake Shore Boulevard into a “grand street”
Waterfront Toronto has already publicly recommended pulling down the Gardiner, so the other three alternatives are in place to help make the EA more fair and unbiased. What’s nice about this EA, despite its unsurprisingly lengthy timeline, is that it includes an Urban Design component, where a master plan of potential land development layouts and the designs of 30% of created public spaces will be encorporated into the EA.
This means that upon completion in October 2011, there will be several alternative blueprints ready at hand to be used. Having such alternatives ready and incorporated into the EA process might help to make better use of the 3 years and $8 million worth of research that EA will turn up.
The biggest stumbling block the EA could encounter would be a change in political leadership. If there is radical shift in City Hall in the next three years, the EA could be discontinued before its study is completed. This could potentially stop all the momentum that is buildign in the waterfront revitalization project dead in its tracks.
To become part of the next round of public consultations or just stay on top of what’s going on at Waterfront Toronto, sign up on their website www.gardinerconsultation.ca
Photo courtesy of Waterfront Toronto