2012 Villain: The Gardiner Expressway
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2012 Villain: The Gardiner Expressway

Nominated for: being an eyesore and creating an increasingly dangerous commute.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

If you think about it, this has all the makings of a classic Hollywood disaster movie. The initial reported incidents. The mayor assuring the city that everything is okay. A particularly dire independent analysis of the situation foreshadowing doom…. If things keep heading in this direction, we’ll soon be sending Bruce Willis and friends to help fix Toronto’s crumbling expressway.

Though many of our villains have in some way managed to harm or undermine Torontonians’ lives, the Gardiner is one of the few that is actually seeking to kill them. Its woes began back in 2011, when the first chunks started breaking off, but it wasn’t until this year’s half-dozen instances (some featuring baseball-sized chunks of concrete) that it really started getting people’s attention.

The story behind this fall from grace (if that’s an appropriate phrase to use) isn’t particularly compelling. The Gardiner is 60 years old and though water, salt, and oxygen have managed to expedite the corrosion process, it was well overdue for some attention. Our aging expressway has been an eyesore for much of its life, and now, with the added burden of safety concerns, it seems destined to becoming a useless world of concrete unless some serious action is taken.

The problem with the Gardiner is that nobody quite knows what to do with it. We can’t just turn it into a public space wonderland like New York did with the High Line. We either have to tear it down and start from scratch (which will be expensive and politically messy) or restore it (which is also expensive: about $500 million over the next 10 years). Though time will tell what will be done, there’s no question about the fact that something needs to happen. And for all of the Gardiner’s faults, it also represents a bigger problem: Toronto’s snail-like response time to issues that should have been dealt with long ago.

See the other nominees in the Cityscape category:

The Impossible Rental Market

Vacancy rates that make renting hopeless.
  Breaking Condo Glass

Causing injury, closing streets, and sparking lawsuits.
  Donald Trump

Lending his name to an ugly, failing project.

Extreme NIMBYism

Taking the fear of change to irrational heights.
  Casino Pressure

Making it hard to make a good decision.
  Bike Lane Fiascos

More angry, more congested, and less safe streets.

Cast Your Ballot