Toronto

Toronto council OKs different way to pay for Gardiner Expressway repairs

It was déjà vu at Toronto city hall Thursday as councillors fought over how to deal with the aging Gardiner Expressway.

City staff says it can make repairs, build John Tory’s ‘hybrid’ highway for $2.3B

City council voted 32-4 to go ahead with repair and redevelopment plans for the Gardiner Expressway approved earlier this year. (Matt Llewellyn/CBC )

It was déjà vu at Toronto city hall Thursday as councillors fought over how to deal with the aging Gardiner Expressway.

In the end, council voted 32-4 to go ahead with repair and redevelopment plans approved earlier this year. 

"We've got to build the city, we've got to stop this," an impassioned Mayor John Tory said, holding a piece of the Gardiner that a road crew had chipped off the elevated highway.

City council approved a city staff report that recommends finding a different way to pay for the repair work. However, some councillors saw the vote as a chance to kill Tory's "hybrid" proposal for the eastern portion of the Gardiner.

The city is "going back to basics" and paying for the repair work as it normally would, as opposed to using a public-private partnership model that would have cost an estimated $3 billion, staff told council. Planners estimate the work will cost $2.3 billion.

That plan would retain the elevated portion of the expressway east of Jarvis Street but also push it northward where it connects with the Don Valley Parkway — opening up land for development along the Keating Channel while preserving the expressway's connection with the DVP.

Coun. Pam McConnell, a fierce critic of Mayor John Tory's hybrid proposal, said she still opposes the plan but that council can't delay the construction.

"It would be a safety issue for this actually falling down on somebody," McConnell told CBC Toronto.

"So now we're stuck."

Coun. Paula Fletcher said changing direction on the Gardiner now would put the city two years behind and waste valuable environmental assessment work.

Gardiner getting a 'blank cheque,' councillor says

Other councilors, including Coun. Mike Layton, wanted to reconsider Tory's plan — which was more expensive than leveling the elevated highway and rebuilding it as a ground-level boulevard — the preferred option for many councillors representing downtown wards.

"How big of a blank cheque are we going to write for this thing?" Layton said.

Some city councillors had hoped Thursday's vote would allow them to change the future design of the eastern Gardiner Expressway. (Matt Llewellyn/CBC )

Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said he believes cost overruns are inevitable if the city moves forward with the hybrid plan.

"We'll talk in a few years when it actually does," Mammoliti told council.

McConnell said it was always unlikely that council would dramatically change course and vote against the Gardiner plan, but that didn't stop some members of the public who oppose the hybrid plan from showing up at city hall.

Shirley Bush, who said she was spitting mad when the city approved the hybrid option, distributed flyers to reporters and councilors blasting the plan as "disastrous" and "gravely misguided."

The staff report, made public at the end of November, also recommends a different schedule for repairing the roadway over the next decade. 

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