New Gardiner Expressway off-ramp opens to traffic

The Gardiner Expressway's newest off-ramp into the downtown core officially opens to traffic on Sunday.

Eastbound York, Bay, Yonge streets ramp will take drivers to Lower Simcoe Street

The new off-ramp from the Gardiner Expressway down to Lower Simcoe Street is shorter but wider than the previous ramp. (Philippe de Montigny/CBC)

The Gardiner Expressway's newest off-ramp into the downtown core officially opens to traffic on Sunday.

Mayor John Tory was on hand, along with Don Valley West city councillor Jaye Robinson, to mark the opening of the eastbound York, Bay and Yonge streets ramp, which will take drivers down to Lower Simcoe Street. 

Construction began in 2016 and in April of last year, the city closed and then demolished the long elevated ramp that stood from Rees Street east to Bay Street.

Built in the 1960s, Tory once referred to it as "the Hot Wheels ramp," given it had multiple loops that rendered much of the space below the ramp unusable, aside from a small circular park with a view of the spiralling roadway.

The $30-million project took about eight months to finish and was completed in the time frame originally proposed by city staff. It was funded by a $700-million investment to upgrade existing infrastructure. 

As part of the project, Harbour Street was widened from three to four lanes from Lower Simcoe to Bay streets to accommodate increased traffic. Crews also added esthetic upgrades to Harbour Street as part of an effort to improve access to the waterfront for pedestrians and cyclists.

The ramp itself is outfitted with "automated anti-icing spray technology" that dispenses a potassium acetate solution , according to a news release from the city, the first time the system has been used in Toronto.

A 2013 environmental assessment recommended demolition of the old ramp, in part because the city's long-term waterfront redevelopment plan calls for reconnecting the downtown core to Lake Ontario by removing structural impediments, like a towering concrete off-ramp with multiple loops. 

The new, shorter ramp will also free up some 8,000 square metres of land that has been transferred to the city's parks division, which plans to expand on existing greenspace at the base of York Street. Public consultations for the greenspace are underway. 

As part of the contruction, Harbour Street was widened from three to four lanes. The new ramp, shorter than its predecessor, opens up greenspace at the base of York Street. (City of Toronto)