John Tory to tear down 'Hot Wheels ramp' at York-Bay-Yonge

As cars drained off the Gardiner Expressway at York Street, Mayor John Tory stood in the small circular park that sits amid the looping off-ramp and announced its imminent closure.

The eastern Gardiner Expressway off-ramp will be demolished in April, closed for 8 months

The aging York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp from the eastern Gardiner Expressway will soon be torn down, making way for a re-designed ramp. (CBC)

As cars drained off the Gardiner Expressway at York Street, Mayor John Tory stood in the small circular park that sits amid the looping off-ramp and announced its imminent closure.

Drivers are already predicting disastrous traffic snarls when the York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp closes on April 17, but Tory said the aging roadway build in 1964 has to go to make way for a shorter, better-designed ramp. 

"Staff have nicknamed this ramp ... the Hot Wheels ramp because you really do whirl around as you come off the highway, but that ride is about to be over." 

Mayor John Tory says he won't 'sugar-coat' it: the demolition of the York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp will inconvenience drivers. (Linda Ward/CBC)

The exit will be replaced by a shorter ramp to Lower Simcoe Street by January 2018, but the eight-month closure will mean drivers will have to rely on the nearby Spadina and Jarvis exits in the meantime.

The city estimates about 10,000 vehicles use the ramp during peak hours.

This is an artist's rendering of what Harbour Street will look like in the future. Notice the new off-ramp in the background. (City of Toronto)

'It's going to be a disaster'

Driver Jeffrey Wells takes the York Street exit every day. He said he's concerned about congestion on the other off-ramps.

"It's gonna' be a disaster," he said, adding he might consider the TTC instead of driving now.

Michelle Gibbons said it will slow down her commute.

"It'll be terrible because any time there's even one lane closed here it takes me an extra 10 to 15 minutes," she said.

Tory offered this consolation today.

"I'm not going to stand here and say there won't be frustration ... but I hope people will understand that we are being up-front in saying this work needs to be done. There are going to be benefits from it," he said.

What the view from Harbour and York looks like now, before the demolition of the off-ramp. (City of Toronto)

How to get around

Barbara Gray, the city's General Manager of Transportation Services, said she hopes to reroute traffic onto alternate exits.

"One of the key strategies is giving people a choice point as far west as the Humber split, so that they can use additional routes to access the city before they get to this point, and then also at Jarvis afterwards," she explained at today's news conference.

The city will also retime traffic signals on alternate routes to help with traffic flow and add signage to warn drivers of the disruption.

During construction, drivers will be able to access the eastbound Lake Shore Boulevard from the eastbound Gardiner Expressway ramp at Spadina.

An artist's rendering of the view from Harbour and York Streets after the city tears down the aging York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp. (City of Toronto)

New ramp to offer improved access to waterfront

This is the view of Harbour and Bay Sts. before the demolition and construction of a new off-ramp (City of Toronto)

Tory says taking down the ramp will open up the waterfront and allow for improvements to the park space at Harbour and York Streets. 

Harbour Street is also set to be widened from three to four lanes of traffic from Lower Simcoe to Bay.

Construction is expected to cost about $30 million — part of $312 million the city is investing in roads and bridges in this year's budget.

Construction will take place from Monday to Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to minimize noise disruption for those who live in the area. 

An artist's rendering shows what Harbour and Bay shows a more pedestrian-friendly vision for the area. (City of Toronto)

About the Author

Linda Ward

CBC Toronto reporter

Linda Ward is CBC Radio's dogged early morning multi-media reporter. Armed with an iPhone and a bit of ingenuity, she brings the latest news from overnight to the city. Linda is a mother to two beautiful young girls, a perpetual volunteer, and an adrenaline junkie. She first came to Toronto in 1987 from Dublin, Ireland.