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The Globe and Mail

Reality check: Rocco Rossi's Toronto tunnel

Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi in this Jan. 21, 2010 file photo.

Fred Lum/Fred Lum / The Globe and Mail

Claim: Citing other tunnel projects in Switzerland, Australia and Miami, candidate Rocco Rossi claims the cost could be "as little" as $105 million per kilometer.

Reality: Boston's Big Dig remains the cautionary tale for any politician intent on burying highways, with the final cost exceeding US$20 billion, up from an initial estimate of $2.8 billion. The Boston Globe estimated it will take almost 30 years to retire the debt incurred. Undaunted, the City of Seattle is pressing ahead with plans to bury a 2.7-km stretch of an elevated portion of a downtown highway, for about US$3 billion, or about $740 million per kilometer.

The Port of Miami Tunnel venture, currently under construction, is meant to reduce truck traffic heading through the downtown toward the city's container docks. The approximately 1.5 km project, which dips under a channel in the harbour, will cost about US$1 billion. While that industrially-oriented scheme includes private financing, almost a third of the cost will be borne by Washington.

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Closer to home, a now-dead plan to bury the Gardiner between the CNE and Spadina was expected to cost at least $2 billion. For the record, the last highway tunnel the Province of Ontario built was a 90-metre long HOV ramp at the 401/404 interchange, for $6.7 million. The 9-km extension of Highway 410, in Brampton, cost $160 million. It is not a tunnel.

Claim: The $1.5 million feasibility study will be a "negligible" part of the city's overall operating budget.

Reality: The environmental assessment on the proposal to demolish a portion of the Gardiner from Jarvis to the Don River, approved two years ago, is costing the city over $10 million, even though that plan is almost certain to be shelved. The tunnel venture, which affects a broader and more populous part of the city, will likely require an even more involved EA.

Claim: Mr. Rossi's team says that no residential neighbourhoods will be affected, and the location of exit/interchanges, as well as the link up with the Gardiner, will be determined by the study.

Reality: Mr. Rossi's proposed tunnel would run approximately 7 km, a distance comparable to the stretch of Highway 401 between the Allen and Highway 400. That portion of 401 has four exits; the existing two-kilometre stretch of the Allen has two. There's similar spacing on the Queen Elizabeth Way, Highway 427 and the Don Valley Parkway. In other words, the tunnel will have at least two other access points-likely in the vicinity of St. Clair/Dupont and College/Dundas-and the nearby roads will become clogged with cars, as typically happens near highways entrances.

The potential interchange with the Gardiner would have to be located in or around the Canadian National Exhibition or Fort York, the only remaining areas along the core stretch of the Gardiner with enough space for on- and off-ramps. Further east, current and planned high-rise development borders the Gardiner.

Special to the Globe and Mail

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