Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he expects city staff will recommend tomorrow that the crumbling Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis be torn down, a view that he strongly disagrees with.
The mayor said he's still firmly on the side of maintaining the aging expressway, even amid safety concerns raised in a 2012 study and multiple incidents of falling concrete.
The city is expected on Wednesday to discuss a preliminary evaluation of the four options for dealing with the Gardiner, including plans for a proposed demolition for a portion of the expressway east of Jarvis.
"The cost-effective thing to do is maintain the Gardiner," Ford said. "I'm not going to tear it down. It'll cause traffic chaos."
But the mayor and city staff have taken opposing views.
Sources tell CBC News that after an evaluation as part of an ongoing environmental assessment, the removal option is preferred.
"Staff and I are on a different page. Staff, I believe, want to tear it down," the mayor said Tuesday, adding that he also believes "most of Torontonians want it to be maintained."
The four options for the highway are to:
- Maintain it. Leaving the Gardiner as is would require the usual maintenance. This default option has been given the price tag of $235 million, which is currently funded.
- Improve it. This option would maintain the Gardiner as is, but also update the "urban fabric" to improve the streetscape. This greener expressway would include a bike lane, but is notably missing two lanes of traffic.
- Replace it. The current expressway would be replaced by one of two options, another elevated one or one that is buried. Burying that stretch would cost close to $1 billion.
- Remove it. The Gardiner as we know it would be taken down and in its place a new boulevard would be built. City staff say this boulevard would have about nine lanes of traffic, running along the lakeshore.
The highway, which was completed in 1965 and is considered a critical traffic artery for Toronto, is used to ferry approximately 200,000 vehicles a day west of the downtown core as well as approximately 120,000 vehicles a day east of Jarvis Street.
It also costs the city $12 million to $15 million a year in maintenance costs.
Last month, Toronto City Council outlined its 10-year capital plan with $535 million earmarked until 2023 for its repair and upkeep, which is necessary after years of weathering.
Ford said that four options for the future of the 18-kilometre-long highway will be presented at Wednesday afternoon's briefing.
J. Michael Kirkland, a Toronto architect who worked on the original plans for the Toronto Waterfront and favours tearing down the elevated Gardiner, argued in a recent Toronto Star editorial that replacing it with street-level boulevards would cost an estimated $150 million to $250 million.