02/05/2014 18:58 EST | Updated 04/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Report favours scrapping eastern Gardiner

The eastern half of the Gardiner Expressway should be torn down and replaced with an eight-lane, street-level boulevard lined with trees, cycling paths and retail stores according to recommendations in a study released today by the city and Waterfront Toronto. 

The report — which looked at the city's choices for fixing the aging, crumbling expressway — said scrapping the Gardiner makes economic sense, even though it will also make driving more difficult. 

If pursued, the removal option "will mean more transit dependency," said Deputy City Manager John Livey. "It will mean more walking and cycling and that's a trade-off you have to make." 

By 2031, driving to Union Station from Victoria Park and Finch Avenue during the morning rush hour will take 60 minutes, 15 minutes longer than it did in 2012, according to the report.

But it says removing the Gardiner will also save the city about $400 million in maintenance costs over 100 years. 

The study evaluated three other options: 

- Maintain it. Leaving the Gardiner as-is is the most expensive option and would see few significant improvements. 

- Improve it. Adding an east-west walking and cycling trail and other features would reduce conflicts between cars, bikes and pedestrians. 

- Replace it. Putting a new elevated deck in place of the current one would require full closure of the corridor for construction. 

The study considered criteria including expected travel times, safety, construction time and cost, the environment and each plan's compatibility with the area's rapidly developing neighbourhoods — which include the Port Lands, South Riverdale and the foot of Yonge Street. 

The study's next most-favoured plan was to replace the Gardiner. 

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford earlier spoke out against the removal option on the grounds it would cause traffic "chaos." Ford says that maintaining the Gardiner will be more cost-effective. 

A public consultation will be held tomorrow. The report's recommendation will be presented to city council this spring.