Tear Down The Gardiner Expressway?

Business | September 23, 2008

If it looks like a rant and smells like a rant, it’s a rant…..and I feel a big one coming on!

While I do have my opinions on the subject of what to do with the Gardiner Expressway, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not 100% informed.

Please feel free to poke holes in my thoughts and opinions…


Have you ever been to Tokyo?  I have, and what amazed me the most was their public transportation system.  Leave it to the Japanese to construct the most intricate transportation system in the world, and undoubtedly the most efficient!

While I haven’t been to London, England, I hear that their transportation system is also impressive, as are the systems in many of the major metropolitan cities across the world.

I think we can all agree that they system in place in our dear City of Toronto is nothing short of pathetic.  A couple of lines running north-south along Yonge Street and University, and one line running east-west across Danforth/Bloor.  Oh yeah—and the Sheppard line!  How long did that take to complete?!

What is equally as pathetic as Toronto’s public transportation system is that of their roads and highways.  Leave the Highway-407 debacle for another day, and look at the mainstays: Highway 401, Don Valley Parkway to 404, and Gardiner Expressway to QEW.

I think we could all agree that Toronto would benefit from more highways, right?  Actually upon second though, I’m sure that many green-friendly people out there would support the demolition of several highways and a greater emphasis on public transport, bicycle riding, and magic-carpet flying…

But this brings me to the meat and potatoes of this post, and that is the proposed demolition of the Gardiner Expressway.

This idea has been bandied about by the resident geniuses down at City Hall for the better part of two decades, but nothing has ever been done about it.  All of a sudden, however, this idea seems to be gathering some serious steam.

Current think-tank-president, David Miller, aka our Mayor, has pledged his support for the demolition, while other politicians such as his opposition in the last election, Jane Pitfield, have argued against it.

My thoughts?  Well, as a Realtor who drives his car through our fair city every single day of the week, I cringe at the thought of demolishing the Gardiner Expressway.

Why?  Well I’ll pose a simple question: what would you replace it with?

The obvious answer is nothing….initially, that is.

Because if an underground tunnel were being built as we speak, then I might support the demolition, even though I don’t think another highway would hurt at all.

But the reality is, we’re not looking at a chicken-and-egg scenario here.  The Gardiner would be torn down first, and then, and only then, would the construction begin on something to replace it.

David Miller has suggested “only” tearing down the Gardiner from Yonge Street to the Don Valley Parkway, but I personally think this idea is preposterous.

Picture a road to nowhere, or better yet, a road that drives off a cliff….or both!


Yeah…something like that…

Think of all the cars that travel on the Gardiner Expressway towards the Don Valley Parkway where the two highways merge.  Now, think of all those cars driving on the Gardiner Expressway and having it simply end at Yonge Street as David Miller has suggested!  Now you’ll have all those cars on Lake Shore Boulevard, which is anything but a highway due to the stoplights.

I can’t comprehend the thinking behind this: “You know how the Lake Shore is always busy during rush hour?  Well, let’s take all the cars from the Gardiner and put them on the Lake Shore as well!  Then we’ll have twice as much traffic!”

Also consider how many cars will try and take “short cuts” through the city to get to the Don Valley Parkway!

I just think that dismantling the link between the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Vally Parkway will essentially create a pit in the middle of the two where all the cars will collect and stew for hours on end.

But back to my point about “which comes first,” ie. the solution or the problem itself.  We all know what it’s like to drive through the city in the non-winter months, which are flush with construction.  Imagine the construction of a Gardiner Expressway replacement, whatever that may be.  First comes the demolition, which would likely take a year in full, and would cause a traffic mess with a ripple effect throughout the city.  Then comes the construction of the replacement for the Gardiner, if there even is one.

I think we’d be looking at the better part of a decade driving in complete chaos, but that opinion is based on entirely on my own estimations.

So what are the proposed solutions?

The Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation have proposed demolishing the 4.5 KM stretch of the elevated expressway between Spadina Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway and expanding Lake Shore Boulevard to ten full lanes.  The cost?  $758 Million.

The CEO and President of the TWRC claims it will only lengthen commuter times by “a few minutes.”

Even if that were accurate, which I don’t believe for a second that it is—what would the commute be like over the next 5-6 years while the construction is taking place?

There are several other variations to the recommended plan, which range from doing nothing to building an underground tunnel.

One idea is an underground roadway be built west of Spadina at a cost of $1.15 Billion.

Another idea is to build an underground road east of Front Street that turns into an above-ground four-lane road along Lake Shore Boulevard between Jarvis & Cherry Street, which would cost around $1.4 Billion.

No matter what the outcome, the report by the TWRC maintains that partially tearing down the Gardiner will “significantly improve the quality of the area,” and suggests that it would be “less costly than other options.”

Really?  You mean doing nothing is less costly than doing something?

If saving money is the only issue, then I suppose we could just transform our municipal government into anarchy, but that too is a topic for another day…

Aside from the massive traffic jams throughout the city, my issue has to do with the thoughts regarding “improving the quality of the area.”  This is where my real estate expertise comes into play.

You see, as a Realtor, I can freely admit that Toronto’s waterfront is utterly disgusting as it is littered with massive condominiums.

But the issue is that it’s simply too late to change this!  If we could team up with Marty McFly and borrow Doc Brown’s Delorean, then travel back in time to the mid-1980’s when City Councillors were trying to figure out how to make the waterfront a “landmark,” then perhaps we could “improve the quality of the area.”

But as soon as these 50-storey condominiums started popping up, it became a lost cause.

How will tearing down a two-storey roadway give any better views of the lakefront, which is blocked by a glut of condominiums?

I absolutely loathe condominiums such as 10 Yonge Street, 230 Queen’s Quay, and every single building at CityPlace for the same reasons that some politicians hate the Gardiner Expressway: they’re eyesores.

I have always preferred a modest mid-rise condominium located on a vibrant city street where a coffee house, restaurant, or corner store is next door or across the street.

But the desolate, character-less, monstrous buildings are there to stay, and they’ve killed any potential beauty we could have instilled in our already-polluted Toronto waterfront.

So how exactly will tearing down the Gardiner help to revitalize the waterfront?

That’s not a rhetorical question.

I’d actually like to know…

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  2. Ernie Barnett

    at 12:09 pm

    Tear down the Gardiner Expressway completely.
    Make the Lakeshore three lanes running east and three lanes running west, joining onto the QEW.
    The city could sell the air spade above the Lakeshore.

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