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Toronto councillors continue to debate fate of the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway

Karygiannis wants city staff to take another look at tunnel option

City Centre Mirror June 11, 2015 Rahul Gupta

An attempt by some city councillors to put off a decision on the future of the eastern elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway has failed and the debate is now heading into its second day.

A motion by Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Jim Karygiannis sought to hold off deciding the fate of a crumbling elevated expressway – from west of Jarvis Street to just east of Logan Avenue – until September gained support, but was ultimately dismissed 15-29 by a majority of council.

That paves the way for a decision to be made on the Gardiner this week by council, which must choose between two main options for the expressway: maintaining the structure and building new connections, the so-called hybrid plan, or tearing down the eastern elevated section down to open up access to the waterfront and widening Lake Shore Boulevard to eight lanes.

Council could also opt to simply maintain the Gardiner and not pursue any other changes.

With the deferral motion, Karygiannis said he was trying to get city staff to take another look at another possible option for the Gardiner: replacing it with a tunnel.

That option was long ago dismissed by planners as too expensive and requiring several years of construction, but Karygiannis insisted a tunnel built through a Public – Private Partnerships (P3) arrangement with the private sector, which is then tolled should be further studied.

“The tunnel option is something which should be pursued and if it comes back as a viable option…then let’s make it happen,” said Karygiannis following the first day of the June council meeting Wednesday, June 10.

Despite the deferral being defeated, tunnelling the Gardiner is not completely off the table.

A complicated multi-part motion introduced by Mayor John Tory also includes studying the feasibility of burying the expressway, but only if his preferred hybrid option is chosen.

Karygiannis conceded he would vote for the hybrid option if it meant further study of the tunneling.

“And if it comes back (that tunneling is an option), then that supersedes the hybrid in my book,” he said.

Councillor Pam McConnell also supported deferring the decision on the Gardiner for completely different reasons. The Toronto Centre-Rosedale representative said pushing the Gardiner debate back would have allowed an opportunity for council to heed expert advice and make the most informed decision possible, which is removing it.

“What concerns me is that when you have experts who come forward and are highly regarded across the country and all of them are saying we should be taking (the Gardiner) down, then we should be looking at it seriously,” McConnell said.

Even if removal is eventually chosen by council, McConnell said a narrow margin of victory could exploit even further community divides on the issue.

“What this sets up is a wedge issue in the communities,” she said.

“Some of these councillors will vote against their own communities and it’s not good for them or the city. We should all be trying to get into the same boat and row Toronto towards a spectacular waterfront.”

Council will resume debate of the issue beginning Thursday morning.