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Recommendation to remove the elevated Gardiner Expressway

I’ve written a lot lately about the Gardiner Expressway East. First to argue that I think it should be torn down and, second, to provide a counter argument as to why some people think North America’s urban freeways are here to stay. I wanted to avoid confirmation bias.

Well a recommendation has been made to City Council and it is, indeed, to remove the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway. They are now asking Council to approve it. The item will first go to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on March 4, 2014 and, subject to the results of that meeting, will then go to City Council on April 1, 2014. 

The recommendation to Council identified the following 4 key features of the preferred “remove” option:

  1. Widening of Lake Shore Boulevard east of Jarvis Street by two lanes into an eight-lane landscaped at-grade boulevard;
  2. The lowest overall public investment at $240 million net present value (NPV) because of significantly lower lifecycle costs despite a higher upfront capital cost than Maintain;
  3. Public land disposition proceeds of approximately $80 to 90 million NPV from the release of about 4 hectares of land (which could support 260,000 square metres of development)
  4. Highest compatibility with Official Plan and Central Waterfront Secondary Plan principles and objectives as well as approved plans, such as the Don Mouth Naturalization and Flood Protection EA, Lower Don Lands Framework Plan, Keating Channel Precinct Plan and the Port Lands Acceleration Initiative.

If you’d like to read more about what’s going to Public Works and City Council, click here.

One thing I didn’t mention in my previous posts is the land disposition piece (item #3 above). By removing the Gardiner East, roughly 10 acres of public land will be freed up which, according to their estimates, could allow for 2.8 million square feet of new development. That’s roughly the size of our 72-storey First Canadian Place.

I’ve been crystal clear about my position on the Gardiner East and so I’m delighted to see it seemingly move forward in that direction. I know a lot of people are concerned that the removal option could result in some commute times being 5 to 10 minutes longer by 2031, but I think we’ll have even bigger problems by 2031 if we continue with the status quo.

Urban theorist Richard Florida has argued many times before that when cities get to around 5-6 million people they come to a point where they have to make tough decisions about the way they’re going to continue to grow and prosper. Toronto is at that moment. Our car dependent ways are already crippling productivity levels.

What kind of city do we want to be by 2031? I don’t think that we can afford to just “maintain.”

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