Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Toronto Councillors choosing sides in Gardiner debate

TORONTO - Deputy mayor Norm Kelly wants to slam the brakes on talk of tearing down the Gardiner Expy. while councillors are talking about adding a second deck on top of it or introducing tolls to build a better road.

City staff recommended removing the elevated highway east of Jarvis St. early this week, setting City Hall on the road to a contentious debate over the future of the Gardiner.

Kelly advocated Wednesday maintaining the Gardiner until the city can figure out how to get the economic benefits of removing Gardiner while maintaining ability to move people and goods in and out of the downtown.

Councillor David Shiner floated the idea of building a second deck on both the Gardiner and the Don Valley Pkwy. as the only way to “fix” the highway.

Councillor Peter Milczyn argued the city should replace the eastern stretch with an improved option and look at tolls as a way to fund the project. “While there are benefits to dismantling the Gardiner, you can’t ignore the challenges it will therefore present to the gridlock that we experience today,” Kelly said. “If you’re going to have a serious argument that looks meaningfully at the options, you’ve got to have those other options in place or legislatively committed to before you make any decision on the Gardiner.”

Shiner said adding a second deck to the Gardiner and possibly a second level to the DVP would help handle the traffic capacity.

“We’ve cancelled every other expressway and major route coming into Toronto,” Shiner said. “You pay for it out of your infrastructure costs, you pay for it from your development charges.”

Milczyn said the city has a “history of dithering” rather than doing “the right thing, the bold thing.”

“There are four options on the table, one of them is a replace option, I would favour the replace option,” Milczyn said. “We should say we want a (public-private partnership) to deal with that. You maintain the capacity in some form and you also achieve the urban design goals and you create more land value.”

He hoped council would have staff look at a toll as a way to minimize the property tax impact of an improved Gardiner.

Grant Humes, executive director of the Toronto Financial District BIA, appeared at a press conference with Kelly to urge councillors to ask “hard questions” about removing the road.

“(Tearing it down) is clearly not the right thing to do at this point in time,” Humes said. “There are too many unanswered questions related to it.”
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