Save the Gardiner and fix costly, wasteful gridlocks

Frank Touby — 

City hall hates the automobile.Frank Touby Editor

You can tell they do because they keep our streets clogged with construction obstacles, unsynchronized traffic lights, poorly or unrepaired potholes and a ridiculous transit form called a “streetcar” that brings traffic to a halt and requires expensive, often-replaced concrete infrastructure…and any other torture form they can dream up to assail those who drive.

For years we’ve heard the refrain from a car-hating public and public officials that better transit will obviate the need for driving. Not true. A car enables a person to cover much more ground in a day than public transit and is more economical than cab fares.

Not for everyone, but for many.

I have a confession. Forgive me, for I am a driver.

There! It’s now out in the open. As a result of what streetcar-riders, bicyclists and cab-hailing Torontonians consider to be my scandalous addiction to the automobile, I actually need to drive in order to function in my business.

I won’t go into details about that. But it’s true. I cover more ground, make more appointments, and especially in these hardscrabble times, that’s vital.

We have heard over the years grumbling about the poorly maintained Gardiner Expressway and how removing it mystically moves us closer to the waterfront. Of course it doesn’t at all. You’d still have to cross Lake Shore Blvd., which isn’t anywhere closer to the lakeshore with or without the Gardiner above it.

It would be the same as it is now, only you’d be able to see the sky when you’re waiting for the light to change and the pedestrian sign to read “Walk.”

And as Stig Harvor notes on page 4, there would be a water feature in the form of the north side of the Keating Channel where happy cyclists and other arrivals would be able to picnic between the channel and Lake Shore Blvd. I think it’s a minor benefit that’s trumped both by the absolutely stunning Corktown Common most of us probably never visited, and the creative Sherbourne Common on the waterfront.

Trucks attempting to get from Lake Shore Blvd. to the Don Valley Parkway, or vice versa, would be gridlocked.

There are a couple of solutions to that mess if the Gardiner does, sadly, come down.

Trucks could be required to do their deliveries late at night and early in the morning so most of us aren’t affected. Or how about funding the Gardiner with tolls? That’s a great idea. (It works for the foreigners who, sadly, own what should be our Highway 407.)

The other alternative is to not tear it all down but to keep much of the eastern Gardiner with the so-called Hybrid option.

That opens up a huge hunk of development land for workspaces and commercial activities. Of course it’s still available if the elevated highway is removed, but it’s also a way to keep the better part of the Gardiner and create jobs from the development.

There is yet another way the Gardiner could pay for itself under the Hybrid option and that would be to cover it with a green roof.

It would serve several purposes. Real crops could be grown atop the elevated highway and provide rental income from farmers.

The need for salting the Gardiner would be eliminated because snow wouldn’t fall on the road surface. Road salt has been responsible for the lion’s share of its structural erosion.

Gardiner traffic is also liable to pick up with the installation of an exciting new community being developed by Daniels Corp. on the lands once occupied by the popular Guvernment nightclub which closed in January after 18 years.

Daniels is renowned for its creation of integrated communities such as the highly successful Regents Park redevelopment.

It’s senseless to restrict a long-used and long-undervalued expressway at the very time of exponential growth of the population it serves.

Public transit would be best served by replacing streetcars with buses and trollies and synchronizing traffic lights to maximize the flow.

One comment

  1. Bulletin Editor

    Well, I can’t say I was surprised by Frank Touby’s editorial in the June issue of The Bulletin (Save The Gardiner and fix costly, polluting gridlocks), but I am still disappointed. I know that Mr. Touby is no stranger to strong opinions, but as a journalist he should at least make an attempt to base these opinions on fact.

    The facts? The 1.7 km of expressway between Jarvis and the Don River is lightly travelled and maintenance of the elevated structure is a money pit. The difference in upfront costs between patching it up and creating a boulevard in it’s place is $225 million. The cost to keep it standing averages $3.7 million per year. These are tax dollars that could go a long way towards modern traffic control systems, keeping cars and trucks moving across the city and leaving enough money left over to make significant investments in the transit system that the majority of Torontonians need.

    Sure, we could sit down at a local café and doodle ideas on a napkin about any number of alternative scenarios but we have hired a lot of qualified professionals to explore the options and report the facts. Those facts line up for replacing the Gardiner East with a boulevard. It’s not even close.

    Even those that prefer to ignore the truth in the service of loudly spoken “common sense” opinions, consider this: Next year we are facing a deficit of $305 million in the city budget; what kind of thinking would lead you to believe that spending so much more on keeping this small crumbling section of expressway upright would be appreciated by our children and grandchildren who will be left to pay the bills?

    George Milbrandt