The city’s public works committee recommends council approve new east Gardiner plan that will cost more than $1 billion.
Toronto’s public works committee is recommending that council support a plan to push the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway farther north, despite a $1.052-billion price tag that’s double the teardown option council rejected.
“This is great news for the city,” Councillor Jaye Robinson, chair of the public works and infrastructure committee, said prior to Tuesday’s unanimous vote.
“It’s great for the waterfront revitalization, from an urban design standpoint it’s critical (and) the environment,” she said, adding it is also “great for transportation.”
Last June, council voted 24-21 in favour of Mayor John Tory’s “hybrid” option to remove only the elevated portion east of the Don River.
Opponents wanted the entire aging section east of Jarvis St. torn down and replaced with a ground-level boulevard estimated to cost $461 million.
Critics accused Tory and other hybrid supporters of pandering to a small number of drivers who would be inconvenienced by a few extra minutes in their commute.
After his narrow victory, Tory pushed for a design that would go some way toward appeasing anti-hybrid councillors.
In January, city and Waterfront Toronto staff released three hybrid configurations, but ended up endorsing the so-called Hybrid 3 option, which removes the Logan Ave. on- and off-ramps and adds two ramps in the Keating precinct.
Robinson said that while this option is the most expensive, “the value that we get from taking this approach I think is really something we have to consider deeply as we make this decision today.”
Former Toronto chief city planner Paul Bedford supported tearing down the entire eastern section of the Gardiner. Nevertheless, he told the committee Tuesday he endorses this Hybrid 3 option because it achieves “multiple benefits.”
“This will give you the biggest bang for the buck. It’s more expensive to do in the first place . . . but the returns are phenomenal.” Bedford said the design opens up space, creating a long-term revenue stream of money that could include road toll revenue.
“It’s a wise investment for Toronto now and in the future, and it’s the right thing to do.”
The estimated construction will take five years. Work is expected to start in 2019.
Despite supporting the teardown option, the West Don Lands Committee can also live with the Hybrid 3 option because it meets five environmental assessment goals, said John Wilson, committee co-chair.
“We commend the work of city staff . . . for tackling an extremely challenging problem — rebuilding an elevated expressway through a core regeneration area” and finding a solution that may satisfy environmental assessment criteria, Wilson said.