My Decision on the Gardiner East

Dear Neighbour,

Over the past month many of you have engaged directly with me over the phone, by email, in the community and through the survey that I posted on my website soliciting your feedback on what to do with the Gardiner Expressway East, located between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway. Currently, it is considered to be in poor condition and at the end of its service life. Due to years of neglect, we have seen instances of concrete falling from the Gardiner, threatening the people that travel under it. Thankfully no one has been seriously injured. In 2013, Toronto City Council authorized a series of interim repairs that would extend the life of the Gardiner East until 2020. Making a decision on the Gardiner East is one that I believe Council should and must make, as the cost of doing nothing is even greater than either the Hybrid or Remove options being presented.

After doing my own research, consulting with different stakeholders, going on a site visit and listening to what residents of Ward 18 have told me, I have decided that I will be voting to remove the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis Street and replace it with a street level boulevard, much like University Avenue, which can facilitate both the movement of pedestrians and vehicles. We have in front of us a once in a generation chance to open up the eastern waterfront for people and opportunity. I believe that we should seize that chance and build a city that we can be truly proud of for generations to come.

I have come to this decision after looking at potential revenues from land sales, the expansion of our property tax base with more development opportunities, the ability to provide more land for affordable housing, additional job creation potential, reduced capital, maintenance and operating costs of a street level boulevard, and the environmental and health benefits associated with the Remove option. I believe that it is also important to think about how removing the Gardiner east of Jarvis will create better waterfront connections, animate Lake Shore Boulevard, provide more opportunities to improve the public realm, and still maintain a link to the Don Valley Parkway.

Currently, only 3% of commuters during the morning rush hour use the Gardiner East, which represents a total of 5,200 people per AM peak period hour. These numbers are similar to current car usage on University Avenue or ridership on the 29 Dufferin Bus that runs through Ward 18. The 3% of commuters using the Gardiner East stands in comparison to the 68% utilizing public transportation (49% TTC and 19% GO Transit), 4% walking or cycling, and the remaining 25% driving to get into the downtown core.

We have seen that more people are choosing to travel into the downtown core on public transit than ever before and I feel that it is important to spend your hard earned tax dollars on projects that will expand public transit for all residents of our great city, thereby reducing our overall congestion. Only serious public transportation expansion will address the staggering commute times that people in the GTA are facing. We will need every dollar that we can get in order to make public transit expansion, including the Downtown Relief Line, Smart Track, and other public transit projects, a priority.

When looking at the capital, operating and maintenance costs that are estimated to be spent over the next 100 years for the 1.7 kilometers of roadway in-between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway, it is clear to me that building a street level boulevard in the place of the Gardiner East is the fiscally prudent thing for the City to do. The difference between selecting the two options before us is $458 million in 2013 dollars. That accounts for the difference in costs between $919 million for the Hybrid option and $461 million for the Remove option.

By utilizing the additional 12 acres of City owned land that would directly be made available for redevelopment by building a street level boulevard in the place of an elevated expressway, we would be able to spur more development, more affordable housing, and an additional $137 million ($2013) in revenue to direct towards other capital projects aimed at improving the lives of Torontonians. By unlocking the value of this land, it will also help us further expand the tax base and provide more property tax revenue in order to address the fiscal challenges our City is facing.

Like the Hybrid option, the Remove option also provides for the ability to develop the First Gulf site into an employment centre, economic catalyst, and a key hub for the Smart Track transportation plan that will provide Torontonians with fast, efficient, reliable, and accessible public transit options in our City. Additionally, with the Remove option, we could create more good jobs for the local economy, helping to break the cycle of poverty and putting us on a path where we could truly create a community where people can live, work and play.

We have seen cities from all around the world that have replaced their elevated waterfront expressways and the massive public benefits that have been realized from those decisions. We need to think to the future, not the past, of the kind of city that we want to build because after all, Toronto only has one waterfront and we need to make sure we get the most out of it.

I look forward to the Council debate and vote on this matter next week and for the start of construction as soon as possible afterwards. We can't afford to wait any longer.

I am working hard to make sure the priorities that will serve our residents are well represented at City Hall.  As always, I will continue to work closely with you so we can build a great city where we can live, work and play.

Sincerely,

Ana

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