Gardiner debate brings back unpleasant memories

The debate rages on! Tear it down! Fix it! Build a hybrid!?! Make an eight-lane boulevard … with six … no, four stoplights for pedestrians.

What to do with the east end portion of the old Gardiner Expressway?

We Beachers can remember back to the 1990s when the debate was raging about tearing down the elevated section that came out to Leslie (it was supposed to connect the Gardiner to the Scarborough Expressway … and we all know what happened to that, eh?!).

Now it seems these same people – or perhaps their children – are lobbying to continue tearing the elevated section down until it is out of the Beach and the East End altogether. Our new mayor John ‘Tory’ Tory, in the spirit of compromise, wants to build a hybrid version of the Gardiner, which really means he wants to leave it as it is but call it something different.

Bandying about all manner of statistics, Tory’s trying to make himself less obstinate than his predecessor, Lord Ford, who made no bones about leaving the darn thing alone. There’s not much I can add to the debate that will sway politicians. The Gardiner has been studied to death. All I can say is that there are some precedents to this discussion that can be considered.

A recent article in Maclean’s magazine about the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor made reference to the fact that the bridge was never connected directly to the 401, but rather emptied onto a major Windsor roadway. Truckers who sail along on expressways all the way from Miami come down off the bridge and have to crawl their way through 18 stoplights on the 12 km stretch of Huron Church Road between the bridge and the 401.

Sure, the proposed boulevard replacing the Gardiner won’t be 12 km long, and some councillors have asked that the proposed six stoplights be reduced to four in order to keep things moving. But no matter how many stoplights you install, it will slow things down. If that’s the point, then fine, go for it. Let’s put boulevards all along the Gardiner to slow things down. In fact, let’s consider putting them along the 401, DVP and 427 as well. Bloody trucks go too fast anyway!

Thinking of boulevards, the one that replaced the elevated section of the Gardiner to Leslie seemed to accommodate Beach traffic quite nicely … until it was decided to put the new TTC barns SOUTH of Lakeshore, requiring massive construction and re-routing, and the closure of Leslie south of Queen. Once development starts on either side of the new boulevard, how would that affect traffic?

Then there’s the idea of burying the whole thing. It’ll only cost $2.5 billion (I’m sure Queen’s Park and the feds will be happy to kick in on it). It would certainly make for a better lakeshore experience. But … wait a minute … what about the GO and VIA train tracks? Shall we bury those as well? Shouldn’t we consider putting some form of mass-transit, say, an LRT down there too? And what makes anyone think for a minute that the elevated section would be replaced by a boulevard, or even parkland? I can see it now: a strip of green snaking its way between 40-storey condo buildings all the way from Jarvis to Kipling. You’d need artificial turf because there’d be no sunlight getting through.

And let’s face it, is the push to tear the Gardiner down really about its crumbling condition? Or is it being pushed by developers who want to throw up their own 40-storey condo buildings?

Does it sound like I’m for the status quo? Really, I don’t care one way or another. I don’t do a lot of driving anymore. But whatever they do, I know it will take a long time, there’ll be traffic chaos during the construction/deconstruction, and it will cost way more than ever conceived in the proposed budget – as usual.


Garth Clark is an irascible long-time Beacher who remembers when the Beach was different than it is now

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