Saturday, March 8, 2014
Building the Gardiner Expy. in Toronto
Let me explain.
With the Second World War finally over, tires and gasoline soon came of the “rationed” list. And a war-weary public and thousands of returning soldiers, sailors and airmen began looking over the list of shiny new cars that were now rolling off the assembly lines at factories where war items such as guns, tanks and planes had been built and were, thankfully, no longer needed.
But the return of the motoring public gave Toronto officials cause for concern.
City streets and the few highways we had in place had not been improved upon for decades. Plans began to surface that would see a much modified north-south Spadina Ave. and Spadina Rd. widened right through the middle of the city all the way from Front St. north to St. Clair Ave. And what about reviving the 1920s plan for the Don Valley Speedway that would run from the Ashbridge’s Bay area following the river to north of the Prince Edward Viaduct where it would branch northeasterly and northwesterly giving two new ways into and out of the downtown. And a third route, from the Humber River into downtown Toronto which was identified simply as the Lakeshore Expy.
Officials felt that it was too soon to be asking the electorate for $9 million to complete the waterfront and Spadina projects. That Don Valley concept was simply put back to bed. It would reawaken for another couple of decades in a slightly different form.
Time passed and the traffic got worse and worse.
Finally in the spring of 1954, under the direction of Metro Chairman Fred Gardiner the old Lakeshore Expy. plan was revived only now as a 9.5 mile, six-lane, 50 mph, $50 million super highway with three miles of it roadway out over Lake Ontario plus parking for 1,500 cars under the mainland raised sections. WOW!!
As exciting as this concept appeared it had a built in flaw. While it would be built in sections over the period 1958-1963 the east end of the new Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway (a name that Metro Council agreed would replace the original Lakeshore Expy. title) was seen as a dagger at the throats of those living near the end of the expressway that was designed to end (or begin depending on whether you were coming or going) at Woodbine Ave.
Discussions continued and it wasn’t until that cold November day in early 1964 when the ribbon was cut and the Gardiner was finally extended past the off ramp at York St. and around the bend over the lower part of the Don River to hook up with the newly built stretch of the Don Valley Parkway that had reached as far south as Bloor St. that the heat was finally off the long traffic-suffering people in the east end of the city.
Oh, and I just found an interesting quote from the Metro Roads Commissioner George Grant who in his speech to the Electric Club of Toronto (is there still such an organization?) on Nov. 21, 1962 said, “The $95-million Gardiner Expy. will be obsolete 50 years from now.” Mr Grant also went on to surmise that the expressway would not be needed because by the year 2012 every family would have its own private rocket and launching pad.
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