NEWS

Gardiner East future heads to city council for debate

06/09/2015 06:13 EDT | Updated 06/09/2016 05:59 EDT
All eyes will be on Toronto City Hall on Wednesday as the long awaited debate begins in council about whether to tear down or rebuild the eastern part of the aging Gardiner Expressway.

After months of discussion across the city, councillors remain divided between the hybrid option -- which is more costly but would have slightly less impact on commute times -- and the remove or boulevard option which is seen as better for waterfront development.

But even as council ramps up for the debate, the Gardiner discussion took a new turn on Tuesday with a suggestion by Coun. Jim Karygiannis that the crumbling expressway be buried, instead of being rebuilt or torn down east of Jarvis Street.

Karygiannis's idea also suggests that the clock be stopped on the debate in council for 60 days to allow further study.

"The one option which is not even discussed is the option of burying the Toronto East Gardiner — creating a tunnel under Lakeshore Boulevard," Karygiannis wrote in a letter to city councillors on Tuesday.

"Members of Council have not had an opportunity to examine this option," he said.

The hybrid option — which would remove part of the highway but maintain the elevated section west of the Don Valley Parkway — is being pushed by Mayor John Tory.

Mayor asked about planner's stand

Among those backing the tear down option are Jennifer Keesmaat and Paul Bedford, the current and former chief planners.

Keesmaat gave a speech in April in which she praised the merits of creating a "grand boulevard."

Tory was asked on Tuesday if his office had moved to have Keesmaat not talk publicly on the matter.

"At the end of the day she has been free to express her opinion," Tory told CBC's Metro Morning host Matt Galloway.

"The only thing, generally, I think public servants should not be doing is sort of debating politicians because they are public servants and there is a line to be drawn there."

Karygiannis new to City Hall

Karygiannis, who is a newcomer to city council, suggested time be taken to consider his proposal and move away from "heated' debate.

"I believe that the tunnel option should be examined," he said, adding that "I will be asking city staff to report back to council in 60 days with its recommendations on this option."

In April city staff completed their environmental assessment of viable options for the eastern stretch of Gardiner. Since then the city has been collecting feedback from residents

The 1.7 km stretch of the road that runs from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway handles about three per cent of peak hour vehicle trips to the downtown core. It accommodates about 5,000 cars and 500 trucks every hour during the morning rush. 

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