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Scarborough Expressway (Gardiner Expressway Extension)



An eastern extension of the Gardiner Expressway

In 1954 when plans for a Lake Shore Expressway (later the Gardiner Expressway) were approved, an old plan from the 1920's was reconsidered for building an eastern extension on landfill along the base of the Scarborough Bluffs. In 1957, this idea was abandoned because construction would be difficult, it would have poor access and it would cut through the eastern beavhes. An inland route further north was preferred. Consideration was given to using an abandoned CN railway which crossed Scarborough, but it was finally decided that a route alongside the main CN railway parallel to Kingston Road was preferred. Officially known as the F.G. Gardiner Expressway extension, the route was referred to as the Scarborough Expressway because of its route through Scarborough.

Functional plans for the six lane eastern extension of the F.G. Gardiner Expressway were completed in 1965, and Metro Council approved the first section from Leslie Street to Birchmount Road in 1967. It was to be constructed simultaneously with the rest of the Allen Expressway after 1969. However, after much debate, work on the Scarborough Expressway was delayed due to budget restraints. It was now scheduled to begin in 1975 after completion of the Allen Expressway was anticipated. The Scarborough route would continue east from the end of the Gardiner at Leslie Street on an elevated structure to Coxwell Avenue, where it would swing north and descend on to the surface. It would go north, on the east side of Coxwell Avenue, to the main C.N.R. railway line north of Gerrard Street East. The expressway would then turn east and follow the railway tracks to Birchmount Road, with the eastbound lanes on the south side of the tracks and the westbound lanes on the north side. In a second stage, it would continue east along the railway tracks to just east of Manse Road, near Morningside Avenue, where it would swing north and join Highway 2A, which goes into Highway 401, at the Highland Creek Bridge. In 1958, Metro began to purchase lands along the route and continued to acquire property, mostly from the C.N. railway, through the 1960's. Much of the property was open space and was purchased cheaply. Many houses in Toronto's east end were bought for the route as they came on the market. By 1969, Metro had acquired 60% of the lands needed, but no construction had yet occurred.

Highway 2A, which was a short Provincial freeway connecting Kingston Road at Highland Creek into Highway 401 at Port Union Road, would also serve as the connecting point for the Scarborough Expressway into Highway 401. It was planned for Highway 2A to eventually be absorbed into the Gardiner Expressway extension.


The Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway extension, commonly known as the Scarborough Expressway, was scheduled to be built after the completion of the Allen Expressway some time in the late 1970's. However, with the cancellation of the construction of the rest of the Allen, the Scarborough route was brought forward in 1971. Even though the Ontario Municipal Board had halted all further land acquisitions along the route, pending the outcome of the Spadina situation, they also stated that Metro had the right to appeal and to reopen the Gardiner extension issue at any time. Metro was ready to proceed with the extension in 1972, when it announced construction of the elevated first section from Leslie Street to Coxwell Avenue, which would be aided by Federal Government funding. The next section would immediately follow this to Woodbine Avenue and then the stretch to Birchmount Road in Scarborough. However, Metro was to face fierce opposition again, as Beach area residents, in the City's east end, began to organize to oppose this route because 1,200 homes would have to be demolished and the route would take out a ravine. Most of the homes required were for the interchanges, and not for the road itself. Metro was about to face another major expressway battle like Spadina, so it ordered a review of the Scarborough Expressway, delaying construction until 1974.

Scarborough Expressway route 1967 approved plan (approval given for route only to Birchmount Road)

Click on this map below for a large detailed 1967 approved Scarborough Expressway plan
(This is a large file which may take a few minutes to download)

Complex interchange designs on approved 1967 plan for Woodbine Avenue (left) and Victoria Park Avenue (right)



The unfinished east end of the Gardiner Expressway
prepared for an eastern extension


In 1973, engineers came up with a new design, which was very environmentally sound. It realigned the whole extension in a deep ditch entirely along the south side of the C.N.R. railway tracks, keeping it away from neighbourhoods. Parks would then be decked over the route. Interchanges would be stacked over the expressway, looking like standard intersections, requiring very few properties for ramps. A great deal of landscaping would be done and bicycle paths would be included. The extension would now swing off the existing Gardiner Expressway, just east of the Don Valley Parkway, and continue east alongside the railway line, completely below grade. This meant that the elevated section of the Gardiner Expressway from the Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street would not be used as part of the Scarborough Expressway. This new route would keep the extension within the railway corridor and eliminate the north to south section of the original plan east of Coxwell Avenue, which would have taken out the most number of homes. This new plan would hopefully answer the concerns of the Beach area residents by rerouting the extension around their neighbourhoods in an existing transportation corridor. East of Markham Road, two alternate routes were offered. The Kingston Road alignment proceeded east under Kingston Road to Highway 2A, which would be more direct and would not require any homes, so it was the preferred choice. The Manse Road alignment followed the originally planned route to east of Morningside Avenue swinging north to Highway 2A. The new alignment only required 650 homes, while the old one took out 1,200. Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey wanted to start construction of the first half of the Scarborough Expressway to Birchmount Road by March 1974. If the new alignment was approved, Metro would then appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board to acquire the remaining lands needed and start construction. However, despite these improvements to the expressway design as an attempt by Metro to not repeat the Spadina experience and to accommodate residential concerns, Beach area residents were not impressed and formed a group called ForWard 9, led by then city councillor Dorothy Thomas, to push their opposition to the expressway. They even threatened to go to Premier Davis and ask him to cancel the route as he had done with the Spadina. However, a survey of residents along the route showed that they were quite willing to sell their properties to make way for the expressway. Metro insisted that the Scarborough Expressway was still needed, to link downtown with a proposed airport in Pickering, east of Metro, and to a proposed new Provincial highway, the East Metro Freeway, extending north in northeastern Scarborough.

Scarborough Expressway route 1973 recommended plan (Manse Road alternative)

Click on this map below for a large detailed 1973 recommended Scarborough Expressway plan Manse Road
alignment (This is a large file which may take a few minutes to download)

Scarborough Expressway route 1973 recommended plan (Kingston Road alternative)

Click on this map below for a large detailed 1973 recommended Scarborough Expressway plan Kingston Road alignment (This is a large file which may take a few minutes to download)

Scarborough Expressway route 1973 recommended plan alternative designs for the Gardiner Expressway connection

Click on the maps below to enlarge them

Landscaped stacked diamond interchange design for the Scarborough Expressway 1973 recommended plan

Detailed design plans for options for the Gardiner-DVP connection for the Gardiner Expressway Extension (Scarborough Expressway) - 1973 recommended plan 


Drawing of proposed Scarborough Expressway depressed profile design

Drawing of proposed Scarborough Expressway stacked-diamond interchange

Drawing of proposed Scarborough Expressway tunnel

Cross-section drawing of proposed Scarborough Expressway

Other ideas for rerouting the expressway in order to minimize and possibly eliminate demolition of houses and neighbourhood disruption were looked at. One idea would be to run the expressway entirely under Kingston Road in a two-tiered tunnel. This would be very expensive and would be difficult for ramps and ventilation. Another idea would be to route the expressway west of Victoria Park Avenue under Taylor Creek in East York and down the Don Valley Parkway by either widening the Parkway or by decking over it, thus bypassing the Beach area by swinging around it to the north. This would eliminate all demolition requirements within the City of Toronto. The route under Taylor Creek could also connect to a Crosstown Expressway going west from the Don Valley Parkway, as was considered in the 1950's, since the Scarborough Expressway would be a logical eastern extension of a Crosstown route. However, Metro was not going to proceed with any Crosstown Expressway since the cancellation of the Spadina in 1971. The Scarborough route was meant to be an eastern extension of the Gardiner Expressway adjacent to the lakeshore. The Taylor Creek option would result in a longer route and would be very expensive. Neighbourhoods clearly would not appreciate disruption of the beautiful Taylor Creek ravine during construction. While looked at, these other options were deemed impractical and were not seriously considered. Metro preferred the proposed route along the railway.




Another option would be to build a lakefront causeway. This would take the expressway away from neighbourhoods completely and result in no disruption at all. Norman D. Wilson proposed the first idea for a lake route in 1954. Originally conceived in 1923, the plan would construct a road along 100 metres (300 feet) of landfill placed along the base of the Scarborough Bluffs from the end of Queen Street in the Beach area to Highland Creek. This idea was rejected in 1957 in favour of the proposed Scarborough Expressway along the C.N.R. railway line due to difficult lake construction and dangerous bluffs erosion. More recent ideas included a landfill causeway which would stretch around the Toronto waterfront from Highway 427 in the west to Highway 401 in the east. This has been the concept of a gentleman named Abel Van Wyk, who lives in eastern Scarborough. He had been promoting his idea since 1959; he wanted to convince Metro to build it instead of the Gardiner and Scarborough Expressways. Mr. Van Wyk actively campaigned against the Scarborough Expressway in the early 1970's in order to promote his causeway proposal as an alternative. His plan would be paid for by the construction of a new city on landfill off the Scarborough Bluffs, known as "Bluffs City". This would be sold and the profits would pay for the road project. The route would be tunnelled through Toronto harbour, but for the rest of it, the route would be a surface road surrounded by new waterfront marine parks. This idea would involve the use of considerable landfill either dumped in the lake from subway excavation or from lake-dredging. Metro officials never took the concept seriously, but Mr. Van Wyk persisted in promoting it. Another idea, promoted by two engineers, John Kipping and Edward Perkins, in the early 1970's, was to build a smaller landfill causeway, about 1 mile (1.5 km) offshore which would contain some bridges and some floating sections. It would only stretch around Scarborough, joining the east end of the Gardiner Expressway with Highway 401. However, Metro officials scoffed at this plan because they insisted that it did not provide the access to local roads that the proposed Scarborough Expressway would have. Metro did not pursue this idea because it was considered to be just a through route with very little access. It would be very expensive, had severe environmental impacts and did not have much public support.

In 1973, the new design for the Gardiner Extension was now completely ready and Metro ordered a six month detailed study by the Transportation Plan Review group to determine the need for the Scarborough Expressway in response to the neighbourhood opposition to the route. The study would be reported to Metro Council by March 1974. Public meetings were held along the entire Scarborough route from Riverdale to West Hill. Finally in March 1974, the transportation plan review presented its findings on the Scarborough Expressway. It stated that there was little need for the expressway and that public transit alternatives should be looked at. The report also mentioned that the Don Valley Parkway and 401 east route could handle the through traffic. However, the report stated that if transit alternatives to the expressway were not pursued, then a road would be needed in the future. The proposed Pickering Airport was shelved in 1974, so that reduced the need for an expressway link from downtown Toronto to the east. Scarborough, however, endorsed construction of the Gardiner Extension and passed a resolution asking Metro to build it, along the new recommended alignment. Lands along the originally-approved 1967 route would be sold off. Metro accepted the study report and did not proceed with the Gardiner Extension, shelving it instead. However, it agreed to continue to hold on to lands along the 1973 route as an undefined transportation corridor for future transportation needs.
Rapid Transit Alternative

Proposals for a light rapid transit route as an alternative to the Scarborough Expressway were looked at. The most favoured plan was to run a streetcar-type light rail transit line from downtown along Queen Street and then proceeding alongside the CNR rail corridor east of the Don River, following the expressway route to Morningside Avenue. A northerly branch would connect to the end of the Bloor-Danforth Subway and proceed to the Scarborough Town Centre. A rapid transit line was built to the Scarborough Town Centre from the east end of the Bloor-­Danforth subway north of the Scarborough Expressway route, but a transit line in the expressway route itself, as the plan review had recommended, did not materialize. It was felt that GO train service within the expressway corridor was adequate public transit and that light rail was only needed to connect the Bloor-Danforth Subway to the Scarborough Town Centre. This materialized as the Scarborough Rapid Transit line proceeding from Kennedy Subway station.

The Scarborough Expressway corridor would remain vacant for another twenty years, and would also remain a source of controversy.

Plan for a light rapid transit route along the Scarborough Expressway corridor as an alternative to the expressway connecting downtown with eastern Scarborough and the Scarborough Town Centre.

Click on this map to enlarge it



The Transportation Corridor

The former Scarborough Expressway was changed into an undefined Scarborough Transportation Corridor in 1976. At first, Metro intended to acquire and hold lands along the entire former expressway route from the Gardiner Expressway along the C.N.R. railway line to Highway 2A for possible future transportation needs such as an arterial road and/or rapid transit. Scarborough supported the retention of the former expressway route as a transportation corridor and allowed Metro to continue to buy land within its boundaries east of Victoria Park Avenue. However, the City of Toronto strongly objected and the route could not penetrate its boundaries. Therefore, the section from Leslie Street to Victoria Park Avenue was deleted. Metro retained the corridor only from Victoria Park Avenue to Highway 2A, within Scarborough, hoping that the Toronto section could be acquired later. The construction of the Allen Road extensions and Black Creek Drive and the protection of the Eglinton and Scarborough Transportation Corridors were seen by some as future new Metro expressways.

Metro owned about 65% of the lands along the Scarborough Transportation Corridor, the former Gardiner Expressway easterly extension. The City of Toronto opposed the existence of the corridor within its boundaries because the city saw it as an attempt by Metro to try to keep the expressway alive. Metro insisted that this was just a corridor for future transportation uses, but would respect Toronto's wishes. Meanwhile, Scarborough strongly supported the corridor and endorsed Metro holding the lands. Therefore, Metro deleted the section from the Gardiner Expressway to Victoria Park Avenue and only held on to lands east of Victoria Park Avenue, within Scarborough, only. Metro hoped that by retaining the section within Scarborough, the Toronto section could be acquired later. None of the properties in Toronto's east end, which had previously been acquired for the Scarborough Expressway, were sold off. Metro hung on to them for a possible extension of the corridor west to the Gardiner Expressway. Metro made several attempts to go before the Ontario Municipal Board to purchase the lands using funds from the sale of surplus properties elsewhere. However, opposition from the City of Toronto blocked almost every attempt, except for a few small properties which were privately sold to Metro. The Board also did not want to give Metro approval to buy land for an undefined corridor which they would not say what it would be used for.

Opponents of the route continued to remain adamant because they saw this land acquisition as a secret agenda to build an expressway without public awareness. Metro insisted that this was not the case, and that they were acquiring the lands to keep all future options open. In 1981, Scarborough asked Metro to extend the corridor west to join the end of the Gardiner Expressway at Leslie Street. While Metro agreed with this, they decided not to do it at that time due to the strong opposition of the City of Toronto to the corridor. Metro looked at building an arterial road along the Scarborough Transportation Corridor, swinging off Gerrard Street East at Victoria Park Avenue and extending east across Scarborough, along the expressway route paralleling the C.N.R. railway line, to join Highway 2A and Highway 401. However, without a connection to the Gardiner Expressway, Beach area residents feared traffic would be dumped on to their local streets trying to get to the Gardiner. They opposed the idea, but it was actively pursued by Metro. Scarborough considered a shorter arterial road, coming from Highway 2A in the east and terminating at Midland Avenue, to be carried west by St. Clair Avenue, avoiding the Beach area. Metro did not want this, as they supported retaining the entire corridor to Victoria Park Avenue and Gerrard Street.

Residents living near the corridor were concerned about the uncertainty over the future of the route, especially how it could affect the values of their properties. Community residential associations pressured the Metro and Scarborough governments for a clearer definition of the Scarborough Transportation Corridor and to at least outline the alternate transportation system to be considered for the route. In 1983, in response to this public pressure, Scarborough decided to study the future of the corridor and to determine what was needed along the route. The study concluded that there was still no need for a major road and that local roads and GO Transit improvements were all that was necessary. It was recommended that the corridor be designated as a "Special Study Area" to determine the exact needs along the route. Scarborough Council was bitterly divided over this report, but eventually accepted it. Scarborough now joined Toronto in opposing the retention of an undefined corridor. Metro remained adamant that the corridor was still necessary for future transportation options and voted to retain it, though now it would be alone in its support. Since Metro was a higher government than Scarborough, the corridor remained in the plan. Metro Councillor Ken Morrish, who represented the far eastern end of Scarborough, continued to highly endorse the corridor, since he saw it as the only answer to traffic congestion on Highway 401 and Kingston Road. This stalemate over the future of the Scarborough Transportation Corridor remained unresolved while Kingston Road traffic was growing.

In 1974, when the transportation plan review group had recommended against construction of the Scarborough Expressway due to little need, the Don Valley Parkway ended just north of Highway 401. Eastbound traffic could then be carried by the Parkway and Highway 401 east. Also, Kingston Road was being widened at that time from four to six lanes across Scarborough. However, after the construction of Highway 404 north into York Region, the Don Valley Parkway now had a much bigger north to south traffic flow and could not take eastbound traffic also, which was causing heavy congestion. Durham Region, to the east of Metro, was mostly rural in 1974, but by the 1990's, it was considerably built up, which added more traffic to the existing roads in eastern Metro. For this reason, Metro insisted on retaining the Scarborough Transportation Corridor and keeping arterial road options for the corridor open. Private sales of properties were made to Metro, so that 80% of the lands for the Scarborough Transportation Corridor were acquired east of Victoria Park Avenue by 1990.

Map of lands acquired by the former Metropolitan Toronto (now City of Toronto) along the Scarborough Expressway route from 1958 to 1994. Some of these lands have recently been sold for development, but most are still in City ownership and are vacant.

In the 1990's, Metro carried out another plan review leading to the adoption of a new Official Plan in 1994. During the review for the new plan, a special study, known as the East Metro Waterfront Corridor Transportation Study, looked at the Scarborough Transportation Corridor again, which had been retained in the draft of the new plan. The City of Toronto stuck to its conviction that it did not want the route to penetrate its boundaries. The report stated that a route coming from the east and stopping at Midland Avenue or at Victoria Park Avenue, without a connection to the Gardiner Expressway was of no use to Metro. The report recommended that the Scarborough Transportation Corridor be deleted from the plan, and that Kingston Road be extended from where it ends near Coxwell Avenue to join Lakeshore Boulevard and the Gardiner Expressway, providing a continuous arterial route to the east. It also recommended that Danforth Road, which runs parallel to Kingston Road across Scarborough, be connected to Gerrard Street East, also providing a continuous arterial road. Improving GO Transit rail service along the C.N.R. railway line was also recommended. Metro Council hotly debated these recommendations in May 1994. Councillor Ken Morrish still believed that the expressway route was necessary, so he introduced a motion to support retention of the corridor, however, it lost by seven votes. On June 1, 1994, Metro adopted the new Official Plan, which was to be its last, and the Eglinton and Scarborough Transportation Corridors were deleted. The forty year uncertainty over these issues finally came to an end. The Province also deleted the proposed East Metro Freeway, planned near the Rouge River in northeastern Scarborough, due to objections from Rouge Valley naturalists. The lack of a Scarborough Expressway also made the East Metro route less necessary.

Lands within the City of Toronto acquired for the former Scarborough Expressway would be sold off and the City of Scarborough could now pass its plan amendment declaring the former Transportation Corridor as a "Special Study Area", as it had recommended in 1983. Planners would decide what parts of the corridor they wanted for arterial roads or other public uses, such as bicycle paths, parks or housing. Any sections that they did not want were to be declared surplus and sold off. New uses for some of the lands were recommended by the summer of 1996 and approved by plan amendment. Vacant lands owned by the C.N.R. along parts of the former Scarborough Transportation Corridor were sold and developed into housing. The Metro-owned lands along the Scarborough route remained vacant, but planners continued to design specific uses for them, such as streets, housing and parks, which would be subject to lengthy approvals. Lands along the former Eglinton Transportation Corridor were kept open for possible transit uses and a future widening of Eglinton Avenue West. Continuous bicycle paths along the routes of both former corridors were approved immediately. In 1996, Metro began to sell off the surplus lands along the former Scarborough Transportation Corridor. Also in that year, Metro passed its last act on the Spadina Expressway route south of Eglinton Avenue by putting houses it had acquired along the route up for sale. The rest of the Spadina Expressway south of Eglinton and the Scarborough Expressway were now as dead as the Crosstown Expressway. The policy of Metro's new 1994 plan was to discourage automobile use and to promote other forms of transportation such as public transit, bicycling and walking.

Tearing down the eastern Gardiner Expressway

In 1971, four expressways in the Metro area came to abrupt and incomplete ends, prepared for extensions. These included the north end of the Don Valley Parkway, the east end of the Gardiner Expressway, both ends of the then Allen Expressway and the south end of Highway 400. By 1997, all but one of these had been extended and finished off to some degree, though maybe not as originally planned. The exception was the east end of the Gardiner Expressway which, to that date, was still unresolved. By the mid 1990's, rehabilitation of the elevated Gardiner Expressway was completed from the west end to the Don Valley Parkway. Metro was committed to repairing the last section of the Gardiner east from the Don Valley Parkway to the end at Leslie Street. This section was completed by 1966 to carry traffic over existing railway lines and was intended to connect to the proposed Scarborough Expressway which would have continued to Highway 401. With the deletion of the Scarborough Transportation Corridor in 1994, Metro dropped its interest in extending the Gardiner further east. At that time, the Gardiner Extension still came to an incomplete end at Leslie Street, prepared for an extension, with an unfinished structure. This temporary situation had become a permanent one.

In 1996, Metro's budget was cut back to the bare essentials allegedly due to funding cutbacks from the Province, so Metro wanted to take a look at ways to save money. Metro's Transportation Department took a look at the east end of the Gardiner and decided it was time to replace the unfinished structure at Leslie Street with a permanent terminus. They were still committed to rehabilitation of this final section of the Gardiner and considered building new ramps at the end of it at Leslie Street in order to finish the expressway off into Lakeshore Boulevard and get rid of a traffic queue lining up to get on to it via a single-lane ramp. Jack Layton, Councillor for the area which this eastern piece of the expressway passed through, believed that since this section carried lower traffic volumes as the downtown section, it should be torn down as had been recommended by his Gardiner/Lakeshore task force a decade earlier. He felt that the traffic could be handled by Lakeshore Boulevard and that the boulevard could be transformed into something beautiful. He became Chairman of Metro's Transportation Committee and asked for a study on this section. A 1993 study stated that it cost $20 million more to dismantle the eastern portion of the expressway than to rehabilitate it if the costs were amortized over twenty years. The policy of council was to proceed with rehabilitation. Some repair work was done just east of the Don River. However, in 1996 when Metro was about to proceed with the next stretch of rehabilitation on the eastern Gardiner, Councillor Layton asked for a new study on whether it would be cheaper to dismantle it in the long run.

The existing elevated structure in the east was deteriorating rapidly and needed attention urgently. A new study was initiated in 1996 and, this time, the cost figures would be amortized over fifty years. Four options were open to Metro. 1) They could retain and rehabilitate the existing structure, with possible improvements to the Leslie Street interchange to provide a proper expressway terminus, such as a new single lane on-ramp from Lakeshore Boulevard between Leslie Street and Coxwell Avenue. 2) Metro could demolish the elevated extension of the expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street and replace it with new double lane ramps descending into the middle of Lakeshore Boulevard, either east of the Don Valley Parkway near Carlaw Avenue or (3) west of it, near Cherry Street. Lakeshore Boulevard would then be widened and improved to the east to provide similar traffic capacity as the Gardiner Extension had carried. Finally, 4) Metro could demolish the Gardiner structure and provide no new ramps, requiring traffic to come on and off the expressway at Jarvis Street, further west. Demolishing the expressway and providing no new ramps was ruled out as unworkable. Placing the new ramps west of the Don Valley Parkway would be too dangerous due to the merging traffic from the Parkway. Therefore, it was decided that with the dismantling option, the new ramps would have to be east of the Don River, in the proximity of Bouchette Street, two blocks east of the river. After studying the situation, Metro officials decided that the most cost-efficient option was to dismantle the expressway and build new double lane ramps rather than rehabilitate the expressway. It allegedly would cost $34 million to demolish and $48 million to rehabilitate, if these costs were amortized over fifty years. The rehabilitation cost would come to $54 million if the new ramps were to be added at the end of the expressway at Leslie Street. The recommendation was therefore to proceed with constructing a new eastern terminus for the Gardiner Expressway with double lane ramps, but it would be located east of the Don River rather than at the end of the existing expressway structure at Leslie Street. The rest of the expressway from Bouchette Street, near the Don River, east to Leslie Street would be demolished. Lakeshore Boulevard, which ran beneath and beside the expressway, would be improved to accommodate additional traffic and it would also be landscaped. Rail spurs crossing Lakeshore would remain, but level crossing gates would be installed. It was generally felt that the lower traffic volumes on this section of the Gardiner did not warrant further rehabilitation costs, which would eventually include road deck replacement. It was agreed that an improved surface boulevard could handle the traffic, saving Metro further repair costs, and would supposedly open up green landscaping possibilities. Traffic flow would improve with double lane access and egress to and from the Gardiner instead of the existing single lane ramps at Leslie Street.

Every ridiculous available argument was put forward as fact in support of demolition and it was even referred to as ‘dismantling’ which applies an ability to reconstruct, while the real agenda was to demolish it at all costs. Councillor Layton endorsed the ‘dismantling’ plan and even offered to have the demolition filmed. However, Metro Councillor Paul Christie and City Councillor Tom Jakobek, representing the Beach area further east, were far less enthusiastic about the idea. They were very concerned about traffic flow and its effect on the already-congested Beach area streets. Councillor Jakobek questioned how the study was done and where the cost figures came from. He wanted a more detailed study and more open discussion of the plan. The proposal would include traffic detours for Lakeshore Boulevard but would keep access and egress to and from the Gardiner open at all times. The new ramps would be built first and would merge with Lakeshore Boulevard just west of Carlaw Avenue. A widened and beautified Lakeshore Boulevard would then become the main thoroughfare to the east. 1.28 km (slightly less than 1 mile) of elevated expressway would be removed and the rebuilt Gardiner would slope down into Lakeshore Boulevard between the Don River and Logan Avenue. Metro Council approved the plan in 1997 and would complete it by 2003. It was delayed due to budget constraints until after Metro amalgamation in 1998. By no means was everyone happy with this proposal. Councillor Tom Jakobek, who became the new amalgamated City's first Budget Chief in 1998, was very opposed to the idea and was determined to stop it. He feared the possibility that more through traffic would infiltrate local streets after the expressway was removed. Public meetings were held and residents on both sides of the issue spoke up. The Gardiner East dismantling was meant to just provide a new permanent terminus for the Gardiner Expressway at its east end because there was not going to be any Scarborough Expressway. It became a battleground for pro and anti expressway groups who saw it as a moral victory for either side. Work was due to begin 1997, but was now delayed until late 1998 or 1999. Opposition from angry residents, who believed that expressway traffic would use their local streets, was growing. This was the first time that residents had turned out to keep an expressway rather than preventing one. By Spring 1998, the issue was still unresolved. The decision to tear down the eastern Gardiner was the last action on expressway development taken by the federated Metro council before the new amalgamated Toronto council took office on January 1, 1998. The new council would have to give the final approvals for the tenders for the dismantling project. Supporters of the project stated that approval had already been given, so therefore the new council was bound to rubber stamp it. However, opponents stressed that the old Metro council had approved it, and the new amalgamated council, which replaced Metro, could review the project, and even cancel it. Coincidentally, the City also planned to dismantle the Lawson Road bridge over Highway 2A at the same time as dismantling the eastern Gardiner Expressway. Toronto Transportation officials said that the bridge, which dated from the 1950's, was in poor shape and should be torn down and replaced with an at-grade intersection with traffic signals. It was the only grade separation over the Highway 2A, located at its western end, near where it crossed Highland Creek. The timing of this proposal, to take place at the same time as the Gardiner East dismantling, was seen by road supporters as a deliberate plot to stop any possible revival of a possible future eastern expressway link by removing the two existing ends of the route where it could hook up to the completed highway network. This infuriated commuters and local residents more. Eventually, council voted to maintain and rehabilitate the Lawson Road bridge.

The Metro Roads and Traffic Department, which had always produced an unbiased technical engineering standpoint, recommending road improvements as they saw a need, felt political pressure. This department came under intense attack as the "standard bearer for the automobile" from anti-road activists. In 1990, the name of the department was changed to Metro Transportation to make it sound more politically acceptable and to give the impression that roads were for cyclists and transit as well as for cars. The name became Toronto Transportation after the amalgamation of the Metro area in 1998. Engineers in this department highly endorsed the East Gardiner dismantling, stating that they wanted to "improve the urban character" of the area by ridding it of an old elevated structure and providing landscaping and bicycle and pedestrian paths, decorated with public art. This new politically acceptable attitude won favour with the anti-automobile and anti-road activists. However, it caused a backlash from commuters, trucking firms and pro-road groups, who saw it as a cave-in to a political minority. They had previously endorsed the work of the Transportation Department, but were now attacking the department for becoming too politically correct and accusing them of putting this above the long term needs of the city. This caused pro-road activists to start to organize public opinion against the East Gardiner dismantling and to fight the issue at public meetings. They found themselves in the same position as their opponents against expressways had been in during the 1969 debate when they opposed the Spadina Expressway construction. The situation was now in reverse and the future of transportation planning in Toronto was again a controversial issue. A generation had passed since the anti-expressway revolt of the late 1960's and early 1970's and younger people were beginning to question the success of the transit priority in planning. Many people considered it to be a total failure because they saw rising traffic congestion, lower transit use, businesses fleeing the city and the existence of dangerous, overcrowded streets with impatient drivers. A bid by Toronto to get the Olympic Games in 1996 failed partly due to its inadequate roads. Some people began to talk of promoting another change of policy back to one of a balanced system of roads and transit, as had been the case in the early 1960's. A compromise was even being put forward, which would provide new roads as by-passes to take through traffic out of neighbourhoods, so that local streets could accommodate more public transit and bicycle use. Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie, who headed Toronto's 2008 Olympic bid, strongly endorsed the east Gardiner dismantling plan. He wanted the proposed Olympic village to be located in the eastern Portlands, and he felt that a new landscaped boulevard replacing the elevated expressway would help to secure the Games for Toronto due to its beautifying the area. One of the biggest concerns with the dismantling project was the use of the railway lines crossing Lakeshore Boulevard. The proposal was to leave them in place. Metro staff stated that they were used by only two trains per week, so there would be little interruption of traffic. Councillor Tom Jakobek did not believe this, so he ordered an independent study done by the Toronto Harbour Commission. This study discovered that the Metro staff had insufficient data and that there were in fact over 20 trains using the crossings per week. The study also suggested a compromise plan to bring the expressway over the tracks by placing the new ramps east of Carlaw Avenue. Metro staff were embarrassed by the findings and promised further detailed study of the project. Any further decisions on this project were postponed until after amalgamation in 1998.

On April 16, 1998, City of Toronto Council met to decide the fate of the eastern Gardiner Expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street. The proposal before them was to construct new two-lane off ramps, descending into Lakeshore Boulevard at Bouchette Street, half-way between the Don River and Carlaw Avenue. The rest of the elevated expressway structure east to Leslie Street would be demolished. A bicycle path, new pedestrian walkways and public art and landscaping would also be done. This was meant to create a beautiful boulevard which would be a pleasure to drive along, while going through a predominantly industrial area. The rail spurs, which crossed Lakeshore Boulevard, would be relocated from the median of the road to the north side. This plan, however, met with overwhelming opposition from South Riverdale, Beach and Scarborough residents led by a group called Citizens for Retention of the East Gardiner Expressway (C.R.E.G.E.). They feared that through traffic would infiltrate local streets and back up further east. The film industry, located in the corridor, also opposed the plan because they feared that the noise from demolition would disrupt their filming and that access to their area would be reduced, thus hurting their industry. Chlorine tankers on rail spurs crossing Lakeshore were also a worry. Dust from the demolition was also a serious health concern. C.R.E.G.E. came up with their own east Gardiner plan, which included full rehabilitation of the expressway, a new double on-ramp at Leslie Street, and all the greening and community improvements of the dismantling plan. The greening would be placed along the south side of the expressway structure, instead of along the north side as proposed. They felt that it would please everybody. However, City staff stuck to their ‘dismantling’ plan.

The Council was divided on the issue. Therefore, Councillor Jack Layton, who represented the area which the eastern Gardiner went through, who was also feeling the heat of the opposition, decided to offer a compromise. He moved a motion to proceed with the plan, but to find a way for the traffic to by-pass the signal light at Carlaw Avenue. This might involve extending the new ramps further east over Carlaw Avenue, which was slightly more than half way between the Don River and Leslie Street. A revised design was drawn up, known as the "Alternative Plan" which included rehabilitating the expressway up to just west of Carlaw Avenue and then constructing the new double ramps over the Carlaw intersection to descend into Lakeshore Boulevard on the east side. Only the unfinished structure at the far east end of the expressway would come down. The urban character improvements, including the bicycle and pedestrian paths and the public art landscaping, would still be done. Meanwhile, $1.3 million worth of emergency repair work on this section of the Gardiner was carried out, as it could not wait any longer. The new compromise proposal pleased nobody other than a few politicians. Proponents of ‘dismantling’ still pushed for the original project, and opponents, who were in the clear majority, demanded the entire extension remain and that new ramps be built over Leslie Street at the expressway's existing east end. City staff insisted that the original plan with the ramps east of the Don River could be amended to mitigate the problems, so they dismissed the compromise plan. They also promised that noise and dust controls would be put in place. The local film industry also opposed the compromise because it would have brought the ramps down in front of their studios, causing trucks to change gears, which would be very noisy. So, their position was that the east Gardiner should either all stay up or all come down. The film industry tended to prefer that it all stay up to by-pass them.

City staff came up with a "Community Improvement Plan" associated with the east Gardiner ‘dismantling’ proposal, which would create a scenic area along the proposed new boulevard. Therefore, the issue was deferred until May 1999, so that it could be studied further. This would also coincide with a decision on the future of the entire Gardiner as a whole. Residential support for keeping the east Gardiner was signalling the end of the anti-expressway era in Toronto municipal politics, which had lasted since 1969. However, at its meeting on May 17, 1999, the City's Urban Environment Development Committee heard over sixty debutants on the east Gardiner issue, who were 2 to 1 in favour of demolition. This had been arranged by Councillor Jack Layton, who called in as many anti-expressway activists as possible and packed the meeting. This gave the committee the false impression that the public had turned around and now supported the demolition. They wrapped up their involvement in the issue by voting 7 to 1 for the original plan of full demolition. The lone opposing vote came from east Scarborough councillor Ron Moeser, who wanted a new on ramp at Leslie Street.

At this point, the final decision rested with Council. Councillor Tom Jakobek, who was very disappointed, but not discouraged, continued to push for the compromise option. Supporters continued their campaign of telephoning the Mayor and Councillors and alerting drivers entering the Leslie Street ramp. The decision would be made at a meeting of Council held from June 9 - 11. Rumours went around that Council was split with downtown members being primarily pro-demolition and suburban members being prominantly pro­retention. The prediction was that the decision would be very close. The issue which was meant to be very easy for anti-Gardiner activists, turned out to be extremely controversial due to the concern by commuters over traffic congestion in the City. On June 10, 1999, Council met to finally decide on the fate of the east Gardiner Expressway once and for all. A motion to retain the extension put forward by Scarborough Councillor Norm Kelly was defeated. Another motion to revive the compromise plan of ramps east of Carlaw Avenue was put forward by Beach Councillor Sandra Bussin and was also defeated. Council, pressured by Mayor Lastman’s staff, finally ended the issue by voting 44 to 8 to proceed with the original plan of demolition of the entire extension and building new double-lane ramps at Bouchette Street. A green boulevard would be created to the east, to replace the elevated extension. Sound barriers would be built to keep noise away from nearby film studios. Demolition work would begin in 2000 and the project would be completed by 2002. However, Beach Councillor and City Budget Chief Tom Jakobek vowed to continue to fight for retention of the expressway extension within the one year it had left of existence. As far as most councillors were concerned, Toronto had dealt with its last major expressway issue and would now concentrate on expanding public transit.

John Sewell, who had been an anti Spadina Expressway activist, urban reformer and mayor of Toronto from 1978 to 1980, put forward an idea to deck over the Gardiner Expressway in the west end. This idea had been originally looked at in 1980 by the Gardiner/Lakeshore Task Force. It would involve the stretch of the expressway in Parkdale, between Dowling Avenue and Dufferin Street, where the elevated section came down on to the surface to continue west around Humber Bay, at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds. This stretch actually went below grade into a ditch and several streets, including westbound Lakeshore Boulevard and Jameson and Dunn Avenues, passed over it. The plan would involve decking over the expressway in this area, and the railway lines on the north side, to create a tunnel. Then a new residential area would be constructed on top. The developer would have the air rights to build over the expressway. This was also part of the original plan to bury the Gardiner put forward by engineer Bill Teron. It was meant to reunite the Parkdale neighbourhoods with the waterfront. It was also endorsed by local councillors Chris Korwin-Kuzcinski and David Miller. John Sewell urged that the idea be studied in detail by City transportation and planning staff. Council agreed to do so and approved the study along with the demolition of the eastern Gardiner. City Council was starting to act on a 15 year desire by downtown politicians to reshape the City's waterfront by revamping the Gardiner Expressway. The proposal to privatize the expressway by burying it as a toll road had been dropped, but discussion of it would go on in some circles. The new eastern terminus of the Gardiner Expressway at Bouchette Street opened in January 2001, and the demolition of the eastern leg of the expressway to Leslie Street was completed by June 2001. The new rebuilt and landscaped Lakeshore Boulevard East was completed by the end of 2002. Some of the east Gardiner’s support columns near Leslie Street were retained and rehabilitated as ‘public art’, as the Gardiner/Lakeshore Charette had recommended years before. Councillor Jack Layton proudly proclaimed that Toronto was the first Canadian city to take down a major expressway.

Demolition of the eastern Gardiner Expressway which would have continued as the Scarborough Expressway. This was the symbolic death of the Scarborough Expressway plan.

Click on these pictures to enlarge them

The dead end of the eastern section of the elevated          The eastern section of the elevated Gardiner
Gardiner Expressway at Leslie Street before demolition      Expressway being demolished in 2001. It was
ready for a never-built eastern extension. The single          replaced by a surface boulevard with double
lane on-ramp had become very congested                          lane ramps near the Don River

The new east end of the Gardiner Expressway today    Looking west along Lake Shore Boulevard at Leslie
                                                                                       Street with the pillars from the demolished section
                                                                                       of expressway, retained as public art  

The western end of the Scarborough Expressway: Some of the columns from the demolished section of the elevated eastern Gardiner Expressway retained as public art. These and some disconnected vacant lands further east in Scarborough are all that remains of the Scarborough Expressway plan

The Acquired Lands Across Scarborough Remain

After 2005, the City of Toronto (formerly Metropolitan Toronto) still owned about 60 per cent of the lands acquired for the F.G. Gardiner Expressway Extension (Scarborough) Expressway and most of this land remains vacant along the south side of the main C.N. railway line. Other uses for the lands were not yet determined and none had been sold off. C.N. used a small piece of it to add a third track to their railway lines. The Provincial Government, however, declared a moratorium on City-owned vacant land stating that they would remain as public greenspace, thus preventing the City from selling the lands off. The lands remain as vacant expressway lands, however the City decided to build a bicycle path along the entire route of the former Scarborough Expressway, thus bringing it into existence as a route for bicycles instead of cars. A section of this bicycle path was built in the acquired expressway corridor between Midland Avenue and Brimley Road. With the lands remaining in public ownership, this opens up the possibility of a revival of the expressway route at some later date. However, the cost of expropriating the lands in between that the City does not own would be very high. With this Provincial action, the Scarborough Expressway was never killed off permanently.

To this day, most of the lands acquired for the Scarborough Expressway remain in public ownership as public open space. However, some sections have been developed. The new 43 Division police station was built in the expressway lands at the far eastern end, south of Lawrence Avenue and east of Manse Road. Some of the lands at Midland Avenue and St. Clair Avenue have been developed into new housing. The lands east of Victoria Park Avenue, known as the Quarry lands, have been developed into new housing also. The section between Brimley Road and Bellamy Road now contains a new bicycle path. These are all small sections, so the bulk of the acquired lands remain intact and vacant.

Views of the remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands across Scarborough from west to east

Remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands east of Victoria Park Avenue looking west

Remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands east of Midland Avenue looking east

Remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands west of Brimley Road looking west

Remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands east of Markham Road looking east

Remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands west of Guildwood GO Station looking west from the Kingston Road overpass

The Kingston Road overpass with enough space provided under it for both the CN railway lines and the Scarborough Expressway right-of-way looking west

Space for the eastbound Scarborough Expressway lanes under the Kingston Road overpass on the south side of the railway tracks

Space for the westbound Scarborough Expressway lanes under the Kingston Road overpass on the north side of the railway tracks

Remaining vacant Scarborough Expressway lands east of Manse Road

Highway 2A

A short two-kilometre, four-lane Provincial Freeway existed at the far eastern end of Scarborough which connected Kingston Road at the Highland Creek bridge to Highway 401 at Port Union Road. It was originally part of a longer Highway 2A freeway which stretch to Oshawa. This route was absorbed into Highway 401 when it was built in the 1950's, leaving only the short remaining stretch of Highway 2A connecting form Highway 401 into Kingston Road. This would have served as the eastern end of the Scarborough Expressway, connecting it into Highway 401. The interchange between Highway 401 and Highway 2A was rebuilt in 1972 with wider and longer ramps, prepared for Highway 2A to be widened as part of the Scarborough Expressway. However, since the Scarborough Expressway was not built, Highway 2A remains to this day as an unlit four-lane 1940's-style highway. In 1997, Highway 2A was transferred to the now City of Toronto, becoming a municipal expressway, so in a sense it became the only existing piece of the Scarborough Expressway, after the western end between the Don Valley Parkway and Leslie Street was torn down in 2001 and replaced with just a set of ramps.

The eastern end of the Scarborough Expressway: Highway 2A, the only existing piece of the Scarborough Expressway route today, looking east to Highway 401 from the Highland Creek bridge where it connects to Kingston Road (picture courtesy of Cameron Bevers)