At the beginning of the week, it seemed possible that the Gardiner Expressway’s future could be settled without first dragging the issue through eight months of ad-hoc revision during dozens of mayoral debates. Nope!
On Tuesday, at a meeting of the city’s public works and infrastructure committee, councillors voted to shelve a staff-endorsed plan to tear down the Gardiner’s eastern elevated segment. Rather than commit to that course of action, the committee wants the city to spend a year preparing a new option for the Gardiner—one recommended by First Gulf Corporation, a developer, and endorsed by mayoral candidate Karen Stintz. It calls for most of the Gardiner’s eastern stretch to be left standing, but for a new Don Valley Parkway connection to be built. In theory, this would free up land for development without delaying auto traffic.
But consider this: if any of the five major mayoral candidates makes a specific promise concerning how he or she will deal with the Gardiner, and then wins the election decisively enough that he or she is perceived to have a mandate, whatever that candidate wants done with the expressway could very well prevail over the recommendations of any senior city staffers or outside experts. Once issues are sucked into the campaign vortex, they can come flying out at any angle. Toronto will have to wait and see—although the crumbling elevated highway isn’t going to get any cheaper or easier to deal with in the interim.