A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto
Toronto Waterfront Revitalization
Toronto is blessed with being a lakefront city with a wonderful waterfront. However, the downtown part of this waterfront is not being utilized properly. New condominium towers, wide railway tracks on a berm and the ageing elevated Gardiner Expressway help to cut the city off from the waterfront.
Traffic gridlock has become part of the daily lives of many frustrated commuters who enter downtown Toronto, coming from the west and north-east areas of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). More than 200,000 vehicles use the Gardiner Expressway every day, though its original design capacity was only for 70,000. Additionally, traffic gridlock is increasingly becoming bi-directional during rush hour, due to people living in downtown and working in other areas of the GTA.
All four modes of transportation must be acknowledged during the revitalization process of the waterfront.
By rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway as a cable-stayed viaduct above the rail corridor, it would look like this:
The Toronto Waterfront Viaduct (pictured above) satisfies both the travel demand along the waterfront and at the same time beautifies it. Plans have been put forward to replace the Gardiner Expressway with either a tunnel or a surface boulevard. However, these plans are not workable. Toronto's waterfront mostly consists of landfill reclaimed from the lake and a tunnel would have to be watertight which is very expensive. A surface boulevard would be unworkable as it would cause congestion due to stop-and-start traffic at signal lights. It would further cut off the waterfront from the city by a ribbon of traffic that would be very difficult and dangerous to cross. The best answer is to build a new elevated highway, but on a much more pleasant structure.
The view of downtown while driving eastbound on the new viaduct. The expressway can be wider than the existing elevated Gardiner and a light rapid transit line can run parallel to it. A covered lower deck under the road deck called the 'Skypath' can carry cyclists and pedestrians, providing them with a sheltered waterfront route. The viaduct can be truly multi-modal.
Map of the Toronto Waterfront Viaduct proposal
Click on the map below to enlarge it
Many cities around the world have signature bridges such as the Golden Gate in San Francisco and Tower Bridge in London. A cable-stayed viaduct above the lakeshore railway corridor would be a magnificent structure that would be a signature iconic symbol like the CN Tower is for Toronto now. Cable-stayed bridges are being built around the world and even attract tourists. By placing it above the rail corridor, Lake Shore Boulevard can be transformed into a green surface waterfront boulevard. So we would end up with both a beautiful new expressway which can be multi-modal and carry transit and bicycles on a second deck and we would also have a grand waterfront boulevard as well which could be more pedestrian-friendly.
For further information on the viaduct proposal, go to the Toronto Waterfront Viaduct web site here:
Toronto Waterfront Viaduct web site
'Replacing The Gardiner' proposal pdf report
Alternatively, if a Viaduct is not supported, another option is an underwater tunnel. This idea was first proposed by engineer Bill Teron in 1986. This would involve building a twin-tunnelled route in the harbour, tucked up next to the shoreline under the water, from Jameson Avenue to the Don Valley Parkway. Being immediately next to the shoreline, it would be easy to connect existing north-south streets such as Spadina Avenue, York Street, Bay Street, Yonge Street and Jarvis Street to the tunnelled highway by extending them south of Queen's Quay, descending into the tunnel.
Similar to the viaduct proposal, the tunnel could be constructed while the existing Gardiner Expressway remains operational. It would be removed only after the tunnel is completed and the traffic is transferred over. Lands which the existing expressway stands on, particularly west of Spadina Avenue and at Cherry Street, could be sold and developed, which would pay for construction of the new tunnelled highway.
The advantage to a tunnelled highway under the harbour is that there is room to build a wide extra-capacity highway of 10 to 12 lanes with no corridor restrictions, while corridor restrictions would exist with the viaduct. It would also remove a highway from being immediately next to condo towers, reducing noise level for them. Lake Shore Boulevard could then be transformed into a landscaped boulevard street without being widened.
A permanent solution needs to be found for access to Billy Bishop (Toronto Island) Airport from downtown Toronto. A bridge across the Western Gap was cancelled in 2003 and now a pedestrian tunnel has been approved. Until something is built, access is provided only be ferries.
The best solution would be to make the airport more readily accessible to downtown Toronto without disturbing the island community. It is recommended that for best access, the Western Gap between the airport and the mainland be moved from its present location between them to south of the airport. A new Western Gap would be constructed between the airport and the rest of the island community on the south side of the airport and the existing Western Gap would be filled in.
Construction would simply involve building the new Western Gap south of the airport first and then transferring the fill dirt from that to the existing Western Gap north of the airport and closing it in. No new fill would be required, so the cost should not be prohibitive.
This project would separate the island community from the airport, though pedestrian and bicycle tunnels could still be constructed under the new Western Gap and the Eastern Gap at the other end of the islands. The airport would now be connected to the mainland and access by car and bus could then be provided directly to the airport, providing more efficient transportation to and from the island airport. Car rentals can be provided at the terminal and access to the Gardiner Expressway and the Highway 400 Extension can be provided. Local and express bus service could also come to the island terminal. The island airport is now used by several airlines providing flights into downtown Toronto for business people, therefore improved access directly to the airport terminal would be beneficial. The present use of the remainder of the Toronto Islands would be guaranteed to remain unaffected by separating them from the airport by a new gap. Existing recreational and residential uses of the rest of the Toronto Islands must remain intact for the benefit of that community.
'Get Toronto Moving' supports the expansion of the Island Airport to support the new quiet jets as proposed by Porter Airlines. This would improve business in the downtown core with better access.
Proposal for relocating the Western Gap to south of the island airport.