Gardiner teardown

Five reasons why it's time to take the crumbling sucker down.

City bureaucrats won’t come right out and say it, but the preliminary results of an environmental assessment released last week on the future of the Gardiner say razing the ageing thoroughfare east of Jarvis is not only the best option for the waterfront but for city finances as well.

1. A big score for the public realm. The area near the highway is home to five burgeoning residential neighbourhoods, and city staff say replacing the elevated eastern stretch of the Gardiner with a University Avenue-style eight-lane tree-lined boulevard would open up industrial lands in the area to retail and residential development and make room for a network of waterfront parks and trails.

2. The 50-year-old highway is in bad shape and has begun to crack and crumble, sending chunks of concrete onto the Lake Shore below. The bill to maintain the status quo would be an astronomical $870 million. Replacing the Gardiner with a new elevated highway would cost upwards of $1.39 billion. Do the math.

3. The economic benefits of demolition outweigh by miles maintaining the aging structure. The study estimates that 2.4 million square feet of space would be freed up for development. And sales from public land alone would bring in about $240 million.

4. Removing the Gardiner would be less disruptive than keeping it. Repairing the highway would require replacing its deck in sections, resulting in lane closures for six years. Tearing it down would mean partial lane closures for three years.

5. The eastern arm of the Gardiner is the least-used section. During peak morning rush hour, about 4,500 motorists an hour use the 2.4-kilometre stretch. Removing this section would add five to 10 minutes to travel times into the city from the northeastern and eastern suburbs. (However, that estimate assumes the Downtown Relief Line, East Bayfront LRT and improvements to GO service will be completed in the near future to provide transit options.) / From files by Ben Spurr

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