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Future of Gardiner Expressway debated at committee

WATCH ABOVE: A special committee meeting to discuss the future of the Gardiner Expressway gave those outside of city hall a chance to add to the debate. Mark McAllister reports.

TORONTO – The future of the Gardiner east of Jarvis St. was up for debate at the city’s public works committee Wednesday.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said on Tuesday he supports the hybrid option, which would remove a section of the expressway but maintain a continuous connection with the Don Valley Parkway.

WATCH: Toronto Mayor John Tory discussed the future of the Gardiner Expressway East, putting his support behind the hybrid approach

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He said this will allow lower travel times compared to the tear down proposal.

“Some will know that during the election campaign, I favoured the hybrid option,” said Tory.

“I did so because I believed then as I do know that we have to keep traffic moving in this city, not just traffic but commerce as well because commerce means jobs for people.”

A city staff report released in April suggests removing the 1.7-kilometre section of the Gardiner could generate up to $150 million in the sale of unlocked land but would also add three to five minutes of travel time during the rush hour commute.

Maintaining the Gardiner is also an option, but the report found it would be too expensive and makes little economic sense.

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Removing the Gardiner to create an eight-lane boulevard is by far the most cost-effective option, at $461 million, compared to $919 million for the hybrid option and $864 million to keep the aging roadway as-is.

All options have their fans and opponents.

“Quite frankly, our concerns for the removal option are both the inconvenience that it’s going to create for commuters and users,” Jan De Silva, president & CEO of the Toronto Region Board of Trade. “The length of time for the construction to take place and the transit delays and the increased commute times that it will foster.”

Some advocates for the area where the debated section of the Gardiner sits want to see the space opened up. Cynthia Wilkey with the West Don Lands Committee said the hybrid option “retains an aging, ancient obsolete piece of infrastructure that is blocking development and access to the waterfront.”

She said the nearly $500 million in additional funds needed for the hybrid option over creating a new boulevard would be better used for public transportation, for the benefit of all.

“Whether transit is built or not is something that affects both options,” said Wilkey. “So without transit both options would have travel times increased between 3-5 minutes.”

City councillor Gord Perks said many on council are still weighing the options, as they sift through supporting documents.

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“There are a lot of hard conversations that we’re having,” said Perks. “We’re having conversations about what are city of Toronto priorities. Is our priority building a highway or is our priority fixing housing? We’re having conversations about the kind of living experience people want to have in Toronto 20, 30 and 50 years down the road.”

Perks said it comes down to having a vision for the city.

“Most of us, I think, are going to come down on the side saying ‘No we want a livable city. We want a city that is transit friendly, and we don’t want to spend all of our scarce dollars on highways.'”

The Gardiner proposal will be up for debate at full council in June.

Follow the debate on our LIVEBLOG with Urban Issues reporter Mark McAllister:

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