TORONTO - You know it’s spring when daffodils begin poking their heads through winter weary soil or your next door neighbour starts washing his salt-covered car in his driveway or your wife hands you the bottle of Windex and a squeegee.
However, the most obvious sign of spring’s arrival here in Toronto is when city officials announce that the Gardiner Expwy. will be off limits to traffic while potholes are filled, overhead lighting refurbished, new information signs installed and directional and lane separation lines are re-painted on the road surface.
Interestingly, while the concept of a cross-waterfront highway to held alleviate the city’s increasing traffic congestion problem was proposed as early as 1947, what we know today as the Gardiner was actually born exactly 50 years ago this month. And although its west end was designed to connect with the Queen Elizabeth Highway at the Humber River, when work actually began on April 1, 1954 the east end of the expressway was still (pardon the expression) up in the air.
It would take years before that politically controversial part of the project would be settled and the hook-up with the Don Valley Parkway made.
It seems that our city has always had a traffic problem (city founder John Graves Simcoe’s narrow main streets saw to that.). As World War 2 came to an end one of the most serious traffic problems could be found at the western approach to the city.
Officials unanimously agreed that to help eliminate the long time traffic bottleneck at the Humber River a series of bridges over the river would be built. Traffic flow would improve thanks to the new bridges incorporated into the new expressway design.
Plus another bridge would result if Queen St. was to be extended westerly from Roncesvalles Ave. via a new right-of-way laid out across the south end of High Park and over the Humber River.
From there the new thoroughfare would connect with the existing Queensway in Etobicoke. The new Queen St. extension would also incorporate a protected streetcar right-of-way reminiscent of the light rail lines in Europe.
The first section of the new Lakeshore Expwy. (that connected the QEW at the Humber with Jameson Ave. and was built at a cost of $13 million) opened to traffic on Aug. 8, 1958.
However, by that time it had been renamed the Frederick Goldwin Gardiner Expwy. in honour of the first Chairman of Metropolitan Toronto and the unabashed champion of Toronto’s first expressway
Readers who might wish to visit the former Great Lakes cruise ship SS Keewatin now berthed in Port McNicoll can phone Gordon at 416 429 5278 for details about planned day trip to tour the historic 1907 vessel on June 17.
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