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Toronto city staff likely to recommend $1-billion Gardiner replacement

Of the latest three proposals for replacing the eastern end of Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, city staff say they will likely recommend the most expensive, which would move the highway as far as possible from the waterfront.

The likely cost to replace the eastern end of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway is creeping up amid efforts to create the best neighbourhood possible.

Three new options for the highway east of Jarvis Street were made public Tuesday, with city staff saying they expected to recommend the most expensive one. Although this would push the long-term costs of the project past $1-billion, it would also open up the most lucrative potential for land sales and move the highway as far as possible from the waterfront.

The design also involves a lower speed limit on the ramp connecting the highway to the Don Valley Parkway, though the consulting firm on the project said that this should have "no material impact on projected auto travel times."

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All three options are variations on the plan approved last summer by council, which directed staff to find ways to improve on the $919-million design for a rebuilt highway. The designs are fundamentally similar, with the biggest difference being how far they are from the water, a change that has associated costs.

"When you look to the future of the city and the waterfront, you have to move the Gardiner further north, so it's not hovering and looming over a redeveloped waterfront," argued Councillor Paula Fletcher, who had supported the much cheaper option to take down the Gardiner East.

Councillor Pam McConnell said it would be up to a future generation to get rid of the highway.

"We have a jewel in Toronto – it's called the lakefront … so why would you bring a highway right down to impact your jewel?" Ms. McConnell said. She called the Gardiner option preferred by staff "the best of a bad lot."

The first public consultation on the new highway options was scheduled for Tuesday evening and a staff recommendation is due next month. Staff are expected to recommend the Hybrid 3, which would cost $1.053-billion over the next century. This option would also free up for sale an estimated $72-million to $83-million worth of land but would involve about $60-million in costs to improve the area for pedestrians and cyclists.

These are still early figures and the final tally remains to be seen.

In June, city council rejected calls to replace the Gardiner East with a boulevard – which would have meant $461-million in construction and long-term maintenance costs – and voted narrowly to replace the highway.

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Deputy city manager John Livey said that construction was unlikely to begin before 2019.

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