Back in May, I outlined the reasons why I supported the removal of the elevated Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street. Of the various options, which included maintaining the existing highway, a so-called “hybrid” section that would maintain most of the existing structure, but re-route the section between Cherry Streets and the Don Valley Parkway, and the removal option, which would see a widened Lake Shore Boulevard take over from the demolished freeway, similar to how New York City replaced the elevated West Side Highway.
The removal option was the cheapest of the three alternatives ($326 million in up-front capital costs and $135 million in ongoing maintenance over a 100-year lifecycle). The study’s traffic models claimed that removal would only increase travel times by 3-5 minutes. Removing the East Gardiner offers the most opportunities to develop the East Harbourfront. Then, I conceded that an eight-lane Lake Shore Boulevard won’t be the most pleasant street to cross, but it won’t be much different than University Avenue.
But for the benefit of east-end and suburban motorists and several vocal lobbies, council voted 24-21 for the “hybrid” option on June 11, 2015, despite higher costs ($414 million in up-front capital costs, and $505 million in maintenance over a 100-year lifecycle). The relatively close vote was an early test of John Tory’s hold on Toronto City Council.
Yesterday, the City of Toronto released two important SmartTrack studies. The first was on the projected ridership of Mayor John Tory’s signature campaign promise; the second was on the feasibility of the problematic Eglinton West spur, which observers pretty much expected would be replaced by the planned extension of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT. Ridership for SmartTrack would be high, but this is predicated on easy transfers, subway-like frequencies, and it being part of the regular TTC fare system. Fifteen-minute service, GO-like fares (which I’ve described as being unfairly expensive for intra-Toronto commutes) and a shorter line will, obviously, reduce ridership, and its relief of the TTC subway. But at least SmartTrack is getting smarter.
On the same day, we learned more about the City Council-supported “hybrid” options for the Gardiner East as City and Waterfront Toronto staff released detailed assessments on three potential alignments endorsed by the City’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. You can view the entire media presentation here.
Of the three, “Hybrid 1” is the cheapest to construct, as it uses the existing DVP-Gardiner ramp configuration, but impacts the naturalization of the mouth of the Don River, necessary for flood mitigation. By largely using existing infrastructure, it also minimizes construction delays. “Hybrid” concepts 2 and 3 move the ramps north, but they would be tighter, reducing traffic speeds. These two alternatives also open up more land for development.
“Hybrid 3” is preferred in all areas except for cost, as it has the greatest potential for development and has the least impact on the planned naturalization of the mouth of the Don. It’s estimated that “Hybrid 3” will cost $569 million to build, and $483 million in long-term maintenance costs, for a total of $1.052 billion. “Hybrid 1” would cost $424 to build, and $482 million in long-term maintenance costs.
Criteria for the three Hybrid options, from slide 39 of the City of Toronto media presentation
As per David Rider’s report in the Star, we should expect that City and Waterfront Toronto staff expect to recommend “Hybrid 3” to the public works committee and city council. Local councillor Pam McConnell, who backed the “remove” option and still prefers it, will likely endorse the “Hybrid 3” alignment as well, as it delivers the most benefits to the community.
I’m still disappointed by last year’s vote to keep the Gardiner Expressway up, but I’ll concur with Councillor McConnell. If Mayor Tory and Council are determined to keep the unnecessary eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway up, it should be backing the least-worst option for doing so.