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John Tory gives forceful defence of Gardiner Expressway plan

06/08/2015 02:11 EDT | Updated 06/08/2016 05:59 EDT
Mayor John Tory admits his plan to preserve the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street to Logan Avenue is "not perfect," but he says it's the only option that will satisfy the entire city.

Tory gave a forceful defence of his proposed "hybrid option" at the Empire Club in downtown Toronto on Monday, saying it was a compromise between tearing down the elevated expressway and maintaining it.

"My position is the most sensible one for the mayor of the entire city," he said, warning there would be division if either other option were to be implemented.

The debate on the future of the Gardiner Expressway is set for city hall on Wednesday. Tory said he wanted to avoid "endless debates" and said it would be unsafe to leave the roadway as is for too long.

"We find ourselves up against it now because we dithered and didn't make decisions," he said.

Congestion was a recurring theme with the mayor, who said he was elected to reduce traffic in Toronto. The hybrid option is predicted to have fewer traffic impacts during the construction phase, Tory said.

He said the traffic congestion times were too high with tearing down the Gardiner. He said a boulevard-style option would add 10 minutes to commute times — though that figure does not come from the city.

Tory also emphasized the idea that cities can thrive with elevated expressways. He mentioned London, New York, Philadelphia and other cities as examples of well-planned expressways. He showed artists' renderings of green space in and around the renovated Gardiner to show how it can co-exist with his vision of the city.

The cost for the hybrid option is estimated to be $336 million. Tearing down the Gardiner Expressway is expected to cost $240 million.

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