Mayoral candidate Gil Penalosa said Wednesday that the city council’s decision to spend $1 billion to reconstruct the Gardiner Expressway East is a big mistake, and that if he is elected, he would change the plan and build a boulevard instead.
The urbanist said that it was a mistake to build the Gardiner and that it needs to be torn down.
In 2015, John Tory’s first year as mayor, the council voted to rebuild the eastern part of the aging Gardiner Expressway about 100 meters north of its former route.
The “hybrid” plan is when Tory wants to demolish the stretch and create a boulevard.
At that time, the city’s chief planner and medical officer of health both supported the boulevard option. That option was also cheaper than the hybrid option.
Penalosa’s vision would create a large boulevard with sidewalks and bike lanes, freeing up surrounding land. This land could then be used for 8,000 new homes, which would house around 15,000 people. The project would cost approximately $500 million.
Penalosa said that he would use the money saved from not choosing the hybrid option to help pay for other parts of his campaign platform.
“It is better for the city to rebuild the Gardiner East,” he said. This is because Toronto is facing an $857-million budget shortfall coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuilding the Gardiner East is one of the largest transportation-related costs in the city’s 2021-2030 capital spending plan.
Penalosa said that his plan would still connect the Gardiner and the DVP, with only a few minutes added to the average commute.
The issue of the eastern expressway came up at both mayoral debates that Tory participated in. He said that the decision to not build it was made seven years ago and that revisiting the issue would only delay plans further.
Jenessa Crognali said that more than 32 million vehicle trips are taken on the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway every year. The mayor’s priority is to keep people moving in Toronto, whether they are driving, taking public transit, or cycling.
Unlike some people who try to start old arguments to prevent progress, the mayor is instead concentrating on making improvements in Toronto.
Elvira Olson is a news reporter for the ABC News affiliate in Los Angeles. She has more than 20 years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards for her work, including an Emmy.