This should come as no surprise to anyone.
Waterfront Toronto has been on record as wanting to demolish the Gardiner since its inception as an agency of the city, the province and the federal government.
The Environmental Assessment that is now reaching its inevitable conclusion has simply served as their vehicle to take the next step in that grand plan.
Despite the pretense of a public process and in-depth studies, they have been unable and unwilling to move the discussion beyond the 30+ year old “keep it or tear it down” debate. In the end, after spending millions of dollars in studies, they have selected the option that is the least green, the least efficient, one that most effectively cuts the city off from its lakeshore, that will prove to be very costly in terms of dollars and disruption to the working of the city– and shows the least vision.
Having invested billions of dollars in new neighbourhoods such as the West Donlands, East Bayfront and the Port Lands, the idea of creating a new 8-10 lane surface road that will dump thousands of vehicles every day winding their way from downtown to the Don Valley Parkway and points north and east into these newly minted communities is simply misguided.
Image credit: beachdigital
The dream of improved transit upon which this house of cards is built is in the distant future, and in the meantime the city needs to be able to continue to function, not only during rush hour but also at other times of day and night. This is not just a commuting issue but also one involving the efficient movement of goods and services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What is needed is the creative adaptive reuse of the existing structure that allows the roadway to remain in place while it is needed, allowing it to evolve over time, and at the same time becomes something that all of Toronto can be proud of, such as my Green Ribbon proposal, which would build a 7 km long, 80 acre linear park as a green roof over the Gardiner. This new parkland would create a new focus for the adjacent neighbourhoods, a safer and better maintained Gardiner Expressway, and separate fast-moving vehicles above from the pedestrians, cyclist and local traffic moving between the city and the waterfront below.
The fact that the EA was kept under wraps for two years after Rob Ford was elected mayor and only came to light when his power at Council was reduced was also no surprise, since those favouring demolition see this as their unique window of opportunity to ram through this idea before the next election and while the opposition is weak and distracted.
We must ensure that the future of the Gardiner becomes a key issue in the upcoming municipal elections, so that people have a chance to speak out on their vision of the future of our city, and not let ideology trump reality. We have to remember that once the Gardiner is gone, it will be too late, and we will have allowed a decision to be made that will affect our city for decades to come. Instead of opting for the lowest common denominator, let’s show ourselves and the world that we have a creative vision for our future.
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