TORONTO - The fate of the east end of the Gardiner Expressway will remain up in the air until after the 2014 election.
Councillors on the public works committee voted 4-1 to send the city report — which recommends tearing down of the elevated highway east of Jarvis St. — back to bureaucrats until February 2015.
Voters will select members of the next city council on Oct. 27.
Councillor John Parker pushed for the referral so staff could study an additional option that would maintain a link between the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway while still opening up land for development.
“It’s in staff’s hands now,” Parker said after the vote.
He denied he was trying to push back the debate due to the looming election.
“It’s a reflection of the magnitude of the decision that we are facing and the issues that emerged in the course of that process,” Parker said. “There are some issues that bear closer examination.”
City officials said the delay until next year was manageable but warned that it is costing millions of dollars each year to maintain part of an expressway that council may eventually decide to remove.
Public works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong was the lone vote against referring the issue back to staff. Minnan-Wong argued removing the Gardiner would make traffic gridlock worse.
He wanted to send the issue on to council for a decision.
“Since when do we force people out of cars? How about giving them choices?” he said. “Let them stay in their car and let them drive to work. Let them take their families downtown and let them go shopping. How about that?”
Councillor Karen Stintz floated the idea of having staff study the hybrid option when she launched her mayoral campaign last week.
“We still have time to look for the right solution and I believe this is the right solution,” Stintz said Tuesday.
Before the vote, Councillor Gord Perks predicted the only conclusion to come to will be that keeping the Gardiner up doesn’t make sense for the future.
“It should be blindingly obvious that building elevated expressways or maintaining elevated expressways is a fool’s errand,” Perks said. “There is no way any sane person would support continuing to have an elevated expressway in the eastern end of the city.”
Mayor Rob Ford repeated Tuesday he wants to keep the highway up no matter what.
“We’ve got to keep the Gardiner ... it is essential we keep that Gardiner,” Ford said.
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