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March 9, 2005

Toronto council considering options

CAA says demolition of Gardiner would only cause traffic problems

Demolishing a good portion of the Gardiner Expressway would make Toronto one of the worst congested cities in North America, according to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) South Central Ontario.

The CAA said in a statement released Monday that demolishing part of the commuter thoroughfare —one of only two expressways in the city — would make it nearly impossible to get people into the downtown.

“If the Gardiner ceases to exist, drivers may as well pack a tent because driving in and out of Toronto will be a nightmare,” said CAA South Central Ontario government relations specialist, Faye Lyons.

“It will cause gridlock on a scale that’s unprecedented on any Canadian or U.S. highway.”

Toronto City Councillor Jane Pitfield recently introduced a motion to examine the possibility of a referendum that would give Toronto voters a voice on the fate of the expressway.

Although her motion did garner support from fellow councillors, it was narrowly defeated in a 17-22 vote.

“Those who would be paying the enormous cost to take down the Gardiner should be given the opportunity to tell their elected officials what direction they want city councillors to take,” Lyons said.

The Gardiner is a vital east-west artery and Pitfield believes that if it is removed the “city will be shut down” and “it will make Toronto a destination to be avoided.”

“On any given day at rush hour, the Gardiner and Lakeshore Boulevard are like parking lots,” Pitfield said.

The CAA says that every day, 180,000 vehicles travel on the Gardiner and without it, traffic will spill onto city streets and make the downtown a stop-and-go disaster.

“The exodus of traffic to residential streets poses serious safety concerns and will hike response times for emergency vehicles, increase idling and reduce air quality,” Lyons said.

City council is examining a number of options for the future of the Gardiner, including possibly replacing it with an at-grade road or a combination of tunnels.

The auto club is raising safety concerns because the city is delaying major rehabilitation work on the elevated portion of the Gardiner while the debate continues.

Toronto council is to receive a report back in May or June outlining the costs associated with tearing the Gardiner down.

“I don’t think many area residents are aware that there is a strong driving force to take it down — and they need to know,” Pitfield said.

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