Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gardiner construction isn't working for drivers

TORONTO - In between the stalled and stranded chaos is a fenced-in strip of stillness, quiet and tranquillity.

It looks like The Twilight Zone.

But it’s the Gardiner Expwy. dead zone.

From about the Humber River to Strachan Ave., the middle lanes have been taken over by construction crews, leaving frustrated motorists travelling east or west in a perpetual state of rush-hour hell.

You can imagine how it is when rush hour actually hits.

The morning version is palatable on some levels because there is normally a beehive of construction activity that offers some quantifiable excuse as to why one’s foot is on the brake for more than seven kilometres of bumper-to-bumper madness.

But the snail’s-pace afternoon commute home or the trip in from the west end for a Blue Jays game or a night on the town is a different story.

Drivers are met with what looks like a ghost town in the construction zone.

After 5 p.m. all that is noticeable is how little is going on as drivers struggle their way slowly through bottleneck.

In the dug-up construction area, tractors and portable toilettes sit unused — and they don’t offer sanctuary for those mired in gridlock either, since there is a massive fence between them and relief.

There is no debate that the up-to-three-year, $75-million resurfacing and repair project is needed.

But what is not lost on those caught in this daily nightmare — commutes an hour longer than they already were — is that while the traveller is not home in time for supper, the work crews are.

They are already having a cold one and not even thinking about being stuck on the Gardiner. There is something wrong with this picture.

Well, at least they will have this all done for the 2015 Pan Am Games to help with the influx of traffic.

Oops. This project is not going to be completed until December 2016 at the earliest.

How is it the city can undertake a project that essentially has 9-5 hours while everybody else is now losing valuable family time?

There are so many other questions.

Why not have these crews rotate to work seven days a week, 24 hours a day? Why not have more crews working? Perhaps something similar to how they built the Chunnel under the English Channel, where crews worked both ends until they met in the middle.

Why are there so many road closures on alternative routes while the Gardiner project is underway? Why not look for any way that makes it not just easier for just the construction crews to get home to their families but for the taxpayers, too?

The reality on the Gardiner right now is just not acceptable. It’s not OK how this has worked out and it needs to be addressed.

This is a crisis and it just can’t stay like this. You better believe this will be an election issue. So many people cannot bear the thought of three more years of this craziness.

It’s especially galling when you are driving by a shut-down work area. There has got to be a way to get this done faster.

Use the 30-million taxpayer dollars allotted for the renovation of the soccer stadium on this instead, if it would help move things along.

“The best thing is to work in three eight-hour shifts and get this thing done sooner than later,” Murtaza Haider, associate dean of research at Ryerson’s Ted Rogers School of Management, told Toronto Sun reporter Jenny Yuen. “There’s no need for repairs to take this long.”

I put my first e-mail into the city about these concerns at 2:17 p.m. and initially received indication someone was going to get back to explain.

The last correspondence of the day said they were “trying to get Michael D’Andrea to call you. He is executive director — engineering and construction services.”

This was at about 4 p.m. He did not call.

Maybe it was quitting time.
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