The Front Street extension, long considered a done deal, seems to be unravelling.
After years of "tilting at windshields," opponents of the extension had a breakthrough last week when two committees of council - planning and transportation and works - voted to defer the city's $90-million funding for the project that urbanist Jane Jacobs calls a "very dumb idea."
Now others on city council, as well as pols at the provincial and federal levels, which are also putting up cash for Front, are urging deep-sixing the $255-million, 2-kilometre extension altogether.
Mayor David Miller and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone, the project's main proponents, are urging council to wait for a major report due later this year on what to do with the western end of the Gardiner Expressway before deciding on Front.
But Etobicoke Centre Liberal MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who had Miller's backing in the federal election, says that within the GTA caucus of MPs, the FSE is "not a high priority. There is a consensus that this is not a project that we want to see go forward."
Wrzesnewskyj adds that "transit is where we should be putting our infrastructure dollars."
Citing "better uses for waterfront dollars," Parkdale-High Park MPP and cabinet minister Gerard Kennedy suggests that there's increasing opposition to the road at Queen's Park, too.
"The city, I hope, would agree that we could do better in alleviating the load on the Gardiner than building this crazily expensive short piece of roadway. I'm flat out saying, 'We can do better. '"
The changed momentum on Front - from done deal two years ago to dumb deal now - may reflect increasingly stiff community opposition, city budget woes or just some councillors smelling a weak point as a way to beat up on the Miller crowd.
But both citizen and green groups fault the city for not looking at transit options such as more GO trains instead of the big road as a way of congestion-busting. The FSE has been a priority project of the waterfront renewal push since that began.
An environmental assessment for FSE was approved 15 years ago and somehow has not yet been stale-dated, though appeals for a more stringent EA that considers transit options have been made to provincial Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky. A federal-level EA has also yet to begin.
But is the FSE necessary for changes to the Gardiner? Pantalone has maintained that taking down the west side of the expressway, believed to be a crucial step in waterfront revitalization, can only occur with the FSE as an alternate route for traffic.
Previous discussions about the Gardiner actually brought about the demolition of an eastern segment, but its traffic volume was relatively light compared to the western segment's.
And addressing the downtown traffic problem by simply using some of the FSE money for transit is a lot easier said than done.
Before urging deferral of money for Front Street last week, the planning and transportation committee actually passed a motion redirecting FSE money to a nearby transit project. But that decision was quickly reversed.