Freeway removal debate hits Toronto as pieces fall from Gardiner ahead of civic election

The future of Toronto’s aging Gardiner Expressway is elbowing it’s way back onto the city’s agenda as pieces fall from from the old freeway, the price tag for repairs rises to$500 million and voters brace for next year’s civic election.

Removal of Gardiner would reduce, but not eliminate, the major road network that cuts the heart of the city off from the waterfront. Unlike Vancouver, where consideration of the removal of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts has focused on a new plan to expand park space and reconnect downtown neighbourhoods, the Gardiner debate has been dominated by worries about the safety of a crucial traffic artery.

Although rehabilitation of the western section is slated to begin this year, repairs on the eastern section have been delayed to determine whether or not that part of the expressway should be torn down altogether. Light poles have already been removed where they were no longer stable at the base and experts say the elevated roadway will be unsafe in six years if something isn’t done.

Even short-term repairs will snarl traffic on a freeway that carries more than 100,000 vehicles a day. City staff say a decision is needed on the eastern section by next year.