$1 billion added to Gardiner repair could be fixed by road tolls, Tory says

The City of Toronto is on the hook for $1 billion more to repair the aging Gardiner Expressway, a city staff report shows.

'Under previous administrations, you'd have heard about it with three years from now,' mayor says

Repairing the Gardiner Expressway will cost $1 billion more than the city previously estimated, a new report says. (Matt Llewellyn/CBC )

The City of Toronto is on the hook for an extra $1 billion to repair the aging Gardiner Expressway, but Mayor John Tory said Friday it's better to know about that extra cost than learning about it after construction gets underway. 

"It's a lot, I understand that," said Tory when asked about the extra cost Friday on Metro Morning. 

"Under previous administrations, you'd have heard about it with three years from now when the construction is half done," he said. 

"It's kind of like the house renovation that gets underway and all of a sudden you discover some part of that you didn't realize when you open up a wall. I'm saying [to staff] I want you to do this work before you start … so we have a reasonable assurance of what the price is going to be."

City council narrowly voted in favour of Mayor John Tory's costly "hybrid option" for the redevelopment of the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway this summer, while acknowledging the rest of the roadway would also need work in the years to come.

On Thursday, city staff published a report that showed total capital costs for the entire project have gone from $2.57 billion in September 2015 to $3.637 billion as of August 2016.

The capital costs of redeveloping the 1.7-kilometre section of the eastern Gardiner have climbed from $1 billion to $1.492 billion over the same time period.

The dramatic increase is partially caused by the lack of federal and provincial funding for the project. Neither government has said no, the report says, but the federal government still hasn't acted on a funding request from the city.

A new city report lays out the cost increases in this table. (City of Toronto)

Michael D'Andrea, Toronto's executive director of engineering and construction services, told CBC Toronto that "as it stands the federal government isn't likely to make that contribution."

The city had been hoping the federal government would pay for one-third of the repair work on the 60-year-old, 18-kilometre highway.

Ontario's government, meanwhile, has indicated that it is prioritizing regional transit projects at the moment.

City staff recommends in its report that Toronto consider devoting some of the money it raises from potential highway tolls to pay for the repair work. Tory said Friday he's hopeful that tolls will be approved and can be applied to the overage on the repair bill.

Coun. Frank Di Giorgio said the city may also need to increase property taxes or raise the land-transfer tax to pay for the project. Even with the additional revenue, Toronto may need Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's help with the highway.

"We do have to have the participation of the federal government, there's no question about it," Di Giorgio said.

Tory's executive committee is set to review the report at its Dec. 1 meeting.  

John Tory admitted the extra $1 billion cost of fixing the Gardiner Expressway is 'a lot of money' but said his plan for road tolls, if approved by council, could help cover the overage. (CBC)

With files from Nick Boisvert