With the election of the Ford Administration in 2010 all work on the EA was quietly shelved. This was only discovered in 2012. The Gardiner EA was then restarted, but unfortunately time had been lost and concrete continued to fall from the elevated structure at an alarming rate.
In the spring of 2014, the City and Waterfront Toronto (WT) finalized the EA and recommended the "Remove" or ”Boulevard” option to the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee. At that time First Gulf, which had bought the Lever Brothers lands at Lakeshore and Don Roadway, came forward to suggest that before making a final decision, the Committee take a look at the feasibility and cost of their “Hybrid Option". Their Hybrid tucked the elevated DVP link up against the CN/GO rail corridor, getting rid of the tangle of elevated roads along the Keating Channel, freeing up many acres for waterfront development and creating a new Lakeshore Boulevard.
The Committee agreed and asked City Staff and Waterfront Toronto to review the First Gulf “Hybrid” as well as to suggest ways to shorten travel times in the recommended Remove/Boulevard Option.
The report before Council next week has successfully achieved reduced travel times for the Remove/Boulevard option.
The 'Hybrid' in this report is nothing like the one proposed by First Gulf. Instead of pushing back the elevated section to the rail corridor, it leaves the existing tangle of elevated roads, demolishes the Logan ramps and moves them to Cherry Street. There is no new Lakeshore Boulevard.
There is a huge cost differential of almost $500 million between the Remove/Boulevard option and this new version of the hybrid: $919 million for the Hybrid option and $461 million for the Remove option in 2013 dollars. The Remove option creates more value because it frees up city lands for future use. You can see the cost implication details here.
I will not support spending half a billion dollars to keep 2 kilometres of roadway elevated to save 3 minutes of travel time for 3% of commuters. These dollars can be better spent relieving congestion on major roads in our city and in making our residential streets safer. In short, we need this money.
Yesterday, I went on a bus tour to the East Gardiner area with 13 of my council colleagues, organized by the City and Waterfront Toronto. This homework trip was very helpful in finalizing my decision. Not only is the new Lakeshore Boulevard option half the price, it is so much better for the future of our Waterfront. There are many more acres freed up for mixed use development and jobs.
Waterfront planning should not be a haphazard – that’s why Waterfront Toronto leads the precinct plans to make sure that all interests are taken into account and we build a great waterfront for future generations. In 2011, I would not support the last minute introduction of a ferris wheel and monorail to our waterfront after years of careful planning and environmental assessments. Today, I will not support a last minute introduction of a 'hybrid' that overrides our careful waterfront plan for the area.
This week former Mayor Crombie, former City Planner Paul Bedford, 3 other former Chief Planners, as well as Ryerson University President Sheldon Levy came to City hall to urge Council to take down the eastern stretch of the Gardiner. See the Paul Bedford Presentation here.
They urged Council to continue the work started in 2001 under Mayor Lastman with the bold removal of the Gardiner East from Leslie and to the Don River.
I believe we can build a great waterfront and foster economic development and jobs with the new Lakeshore Boulevard option for the Gardiner East. I also believe that savings from pursuing this option should be invested in the City’s comprehensive and under-funded Congestion Management Plan.
As former Mayor Crombie said last week – City Council needs to grab the future not the past.
My vote next week will be to grab the future.
Councillor Paula Fletcher
Ward 30 - Toronto Danforth