At this week's meeting, council will debate new alternatives for the future of the Gardiner east of Jarvis.
If you thought that city council was done debating the future of the East Gardiner Expressway, you would be mistaken. At last week’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting, staff presented a progress report on the controversial plan to rebuild the East Gardiner Expressway with a new “Hybrid” alignment.
Back on June 11, Toronto City Council voted 24-21 in favour of a reconstructed Gardiner Expressway between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP). The deteriorating condition of the underused elevated highway, Waterfront Toronto’s plans to naturalize the mouth of the Don River and develop the Port Lands, and First Gulf’s plans to redevelop the massive former Unilever lands on the east side of the Don River necessitated this decision. While removal of the East Gardiner, and replacing it with a rebuilt Lake Shore Boulevard would be cheaper and would unlock more waterfront land for development, Mayor John Tory and many suburban councillors felt that the needs of motorists came first, and chose to back a “Hybrid” option. Torontoist illustrated the differences between the removal and “hybrid” options in June.
There are now three new “hybrid” options on the table, each with their own advantages and drawbacks. These options seek to improve development opportunities along the corridor, minimize impacts on private property, even improve the public realm. The concepts are summarized below, accompanied with maps from the PWIC report [PDF].
Option 1: “Revised Hybrid with ‘Tighter’ Ramps”
Map from “Hybrid Design Concepts for the Gardiner East EA” Sept. 22 2015, page 13
This option is nearly the same as the “hybrid” approved in principle by Council in June. The Gardiner is removed east of the Don River, improving access and exposure to the First Gulf Lands. The existing Gardiner-DVP ramps remain, but new Gardiner-Lake Shore Boulevard ramps are constructed east of Cherry Street. This revision alters one of those off-ramps to avoid private property. The costs would be about the same as the $414 million (2013 dollars) estimated to construct the “hybrid” as approved by council. It would open up 8.5 acres of development lands.
Option 2: “New Hybrid, Further North”
Map from “Hybrid Design Concepts for the Gardiner East EA” Sept. 22 2015, page 14.
This concept differs significantly from the previous “hybrid” alignment. It proposes new ramps between the Gardiner and Don Valley Parkway, while keeping Lake Shore Boulevard under the Gardiner for a longer distance. It opens up many of the same development lands that would have been unlocked by the Remove/Boulevard plan council rejected in June, but will be approximately $90 to $140 million more expensive to construct than the original $414M estimate. The new ramps between the DVP and the Gardiner would be tighter, requiring a lower speed limit. Option 2 would open up 12.5 acres for development.
Option 3: “New Hybrid, Further North with Rail Bridge Widening”
Map from “Hybrid Design Concepts for the Gardiner East EA” Sept. 22 2015, page 15.
This third concept is similar to the second, as the Gardiner is diverted north towards the rail corridor with new, tighter ramps connecting it with the DVP. Lake Shore Boulevard hugs Keating Channel, as it does now. This plan, which is very similar to one that First Gulf pitched several years ago, would cost $120 to $180 million more than the the original estimate for the “hybrid” plan. Option 3 unlocks the most land for development, approximately 13.5 acres.
As Matt Elliot argued in Metro on Monday, these new options ignore the best option for this section of the Gardiner: removal. Removing the East Gardiner and building a new Lake Shore Boulevard unlocks the most lands for development, and costs the least amount of money; these funds could then be put towards other needs, such as transit.
Plans for the Gardiner East will be refined further and heard again at the committee level in January and at Council in February 2016. There will still be several opportunities for feedback from stakeholders and the general public before the final environmental assessment (EA) is planned for submission in May 2016.