A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto
The newly-built Don Valley Parkway looking south near Bloor Street in 1961.
The Don Valley Parkway at Don Mills Road in 1969 still not much traffic yet
The Don Valley Parkway at Lawrence Avenue in 1966. It was opened to Sheppard Avenue, north of Highway 401, later that year.
Near the Leaside Bridge looking south. Since the Parkway meanders through the Don River valley, drivers are treated to seeing beautiful bold colours of the valley's trees in the Fall.
At Highway 401 looking south. The Parkway continues north from here as the Province's Highway 404
The Don Valley Parkway looking south at Eglinton Avenue in 1963. It had very little traffic on as the area did not have much development yet.
Finch Avenue looking east at Woodbine Avenue in 1965. This area was still mostly rural. The Don Valley Parkway was built as far as Sheppard Avenue only.
At the Gardiner Expressway looking southwest. In 2019, these ramps will be rebuilt and relocated a little further north.
Tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway, considered when City Council voted to approve the hybrid option for the east Gardiner, came one step closer to reality after City Council issued a request for proposals (RFP) late on March 11, 2016 which asked for advice on how to impose charges on drivers who use the highways.
The 54-page RFP called for a “study” on what type of toll technology is “best suited” for Toronto, where the toll facilities would be located, what would be charged and how it would be charged, as well as how the tolls would be enforced.
The RFP also expected the successful bidder to outline what options should be used for commuters to pay the tolls and to determine who should pay (Toronto residents vs. those living in other parts of the GTA), including how to treat tourists to the city.
The proposal call indicated that tolls would be applied to the entire Don Valley Parkway from Highway 401 to the Gardiner Expressway and the length of the Gardiner Expressway from just east of Highway 427 to the Don Valley Parkway. Only the Allen Expressway would remain free due to its short length.
The RFP makes it clear that at least $2.5 billion was needed to rehabilitate the Gardiner Expressway between Cherry St. and the Don Valley Parkway — work slated to be done between 2018 and 2023 using a public-private partnership model — and that the two highways needed ongoing investment to maintain them in a state of repair.
“Tolling would provide a revenue source for funding ongoing capital and operating costs for these facilities and/or general revenue for the city for other transportation alternatives,” the document says.
That report pegged the cost to maintain the Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway and a potential toll system over 30 years at about $5.7 billion ($1.7 billion alone for the toll system).
In November 2016, Mayor John Tory proposed a $2.00 toll on both the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway to pay for road repairs and for transit expansion. This was approved by City Council on December 13, 2016 by a 32-9 vote. It would have to go to the Province for final approval since the City does not have the authority to charge tolls on its highways. This was denied by the Provincial Government. With all Provincial political parties now opposed to the tolls, the issue was now dead.
At Bloor Street looking south
Approaching the Gardiner Expressway looking south. The original fluorescent lamps had been replaced by low pressure sodium lamps in 1975.
At Eastern Avenue looking south
Near Lawrence Avenue looking north. The Parkway is getting very congested
Aerial view of Woodbine Avenue looking at Finch Avenue in 1965. This area was still all rural. The Don Valley Parkway was build as far as Sheppard Avenue in 1966.
Views of the Don Valley Parkway from south to north in the 1980's
Photos courtesy of Michael Sgambelluri - Vintage Kings Highways http://www.vintagekingshighways.com/404.html
Click on these pictures to enlarge them
At Sheppard Avenue looking north (now Highway 404)
At Gerrard Street looking north. The original fluorescent lamps had been replaced by low pressure sodium lamps in 1975.
At York Mills Road looking north
The Don Valley Parkway was originally designed and built as a four-lane expressway, and was subsequently expanded to six lanes in the 1980s when the grass median was replaced by an additional lane per direction and a concrete barrier.
As traffic volume has grown, plans have been floated several times to expand the highway further, add bus lanes or other alternative roadways, although no plans exist currently. There have also been calls to revive the Scarborough Expressway, which would divert much of the traffic that currently uses the Don Valley Parkway.
During the 2003 municipal election campaign, candidates openly debated expanding the highway, funded through the conversion of the highway to a tollway. Plans to reduce traffic have included Single Occupant Vehicle Tolls combined with Duo Occupancy Vehicle Tolls which are slightly lower than SOV. but this was rejected after fears that traffic would be diverted on already-congested parallel arterials such as Bayview Avenue and popular objections to toll highways.
Most recently, in 2004, the Canadian Automobile Association lobbied for a plan to expand the DVP, along with the construction of additional arterial roads to accommodate the traffic volumes. One such example is extending Leslie Street past Eglinton Avenue until it meets the DVP; Leslie Street has an interchange with Highway 401 while Don Mills does not.
On May 11, 2007, GO Transit had a plan to put dedicated bus lanes on the long shoulder lanes on the Don Valley Parkway, due to the long traffic congestion that the GO Buses go through each day as they travel on the Don Valley Parkway to Union Station. This plan would takes years to begin. Toronto officials have to do weight testing on the asphalt on the Don Valley Parkway and perform environmental assessments.
GO bus lanes in the shoulders
In May 2010, City of Toronto Council approved a plan to convert the median shoulder of the Don Valley Parkway, both northbound and southbound, from Lawrence Avenue to 458 metres north of York Mills Rd. where municipal jurisdiction ends and Provincial Highway 404 begins, into a dedicated GO Transit bus lane for times of traffic congestion. This was the first time that exclusive bus lanes were added to a municipal expressway in Toronto. Because the shoulder along that stretch was so wide, there would be no need for construction, only painting and installing signs. Because the shoulder was not open to the public, other Don Valley Parkway users would not be affected by the change, other than that they would not be able to stop easily on the inside lane in case of emergency. The idea behind the project was to get more people using public transit.The GO buses would be allowed to use the dedicated lane only if traffic in the other lanes slows to 60 km/h or less, which was a common occurrence on the Don Valley Parkway north of Eglinton Avenue. Once in the lane, the buses would not be allowed to go faster than 20 km/h above the congested traffic. The GO bus lane went into operation in September 2010. At the same time, an environmental assessment had been initiated as part of a plan to widen the Don Valley Parkway shoulder from Pottery Road to Eglinton Avenue to make for another bus bypass lane, this time on the outside, or right shoulder in both directions. This would involve construction which would take between two and three years to implement.
At Wynford Drive looking south
The Don Valley Parkway
The Don Valley Parkway was built as part of a grand plan initiated by then Metro Chair Fred Gardiner (for whom the Gardiner Expressway is named) in the 1950s to criss-cross the city with expressways. The highways plan was never completed primarily because of downtown objections to several of the expressway routes, leaving it and the Gardiner Expressway to carry the bulk of highway traffic into the core. The Don Valley Parkway was completed from the Gardiner Expressway to Sheppard Avenue by 1966. Land was acquired to extend the Parkway north to Steeles Avenue alongside what was then Woodbine Avenue which continued from the north end of the Parkway. Since the Parkway meanders through the Don River valley, drivers are treated to seeing beautiful bold colours of the valley's trees in the Fall.
North of Highway 401, Metropolitan Toronto had initially intended to extend the DVP north past Sheppard Avenue to Steeles Avenue at the northern Metropolitan boundary, which would then continue north in York Region as a Provincial Highway 404. In 1975, the Province decided that they wanted their then-proposed Highway 404 to connect to Highway 401 instead of going only to the Metropolitan boundary at Steeles Avenue. The Province took over the lands set aside for the Parkway extension and the completed section between Highway 401 and Sheppard Avenue and renamed all of it as part of Highway 404, which was completed to Steeles Avenue in 1977.
At Lawrence Avenue looking north
The newly-built Don Valley Parkway looking south at Don Mills Road in 1961. Very little traffic on it.
New low mast lighting at Queen Street
Left aerial picture - Aerial view of Woodbine Avenue looking north from the end of the Don Valley Parkway at Sheppard Avenue in 1970. A corridor was left open from development along both sides of Woodbine Avenue for the eventual northern extension of the Don Valley Parkway, later filled by the Province's Highway 404. Development was creeping north, but on both sides, but north of Finch Avenue was still rural at that time. This section of Highway 404 was built in 1977.
The Don Valley Parkway under construction north of Bloor Street in 1959
The north end of the Don Valley Parkway at Sheppard Avenue after 1967. It continued north as two-lane Woodbine Avenue. The right-of-way for a northern extension of the Don Valley Parkway was kept open by Toronto until it was taken over by the Province in 1975 and built as their Highway 404. This section of the Don Valley Parkway between Highway 401 and Sheppard Avenue was also taken over by the Province and incorporated into Highway 404, thus terminating the Parkway at the 401.
Near Don Mills Road looking south
New high mast lighting at Lawrence Avenue
Exit numbers were introduced on to the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) and Gardiner Expressway in 2018 as continuations of the Province's exit numbers on Highway 404 and the Queen Elizabeth Way.
The Don Valley Parkway is Toronto's busiest commuter route (along with the Gardiner Expressway), connecting the city to its northern and eastern suburbs via Highways 401 and 404. When construction of the DVP was completed in 1966, traffic volumes were much lower than today. In addition, most of the traffic from the east on the DVP was expected to be carried by the planned Scarborough Expressway, which was ultimately never built. Since the mid-1960s, the population of the suburbs has grown tremendously, and along with it heavy traffic on the DVP, resulting in frequent congestion; as a result, the freeway is not-so-affectionately nicknamed the "Don Valley Parking Lot."
The most congested section is between Eglinton Avenue and Highway 401, often well beyond rush hours, although the highway is sometimes congested along its whole length. This situation has not changed since the 1980s.
The interchange with Highway 401 is a serious bottleneck, due to only two through traffic lanes for northbound/southbound traffic and because of heavy four-way volumes. The worst jams occur southbound just past the junction with Highway 401, where two lanes and one HOV lane from Highway 404, two lanes from the 401 Westbound, and two lanes from the 401 Eastbound become four, and eventually three prior to the offramp at York Mills Road.
High Mast Lighting
The 1960's conventional illumination, originally fluorescent, later remodelled into low pressure sodium in 1975, has been replaced by a combination of shaded high pressure sodium high-mast and low mast lighting since the early 2000's. This was done to reduce the number of pole-collisions on the Parkway which amounted to four per week. It also opened up the view of the river valley to drivers.
Traffic management on the DVP has improved with the installation of changeable message signs and overhead ('RESCU') cameras have been installed along the route, similar to the COMPASS system that the province uses on 400-Series Highways such as Highway 401 and the QEW. Concrete barrier walls are now used in the outer sections, as well dividing the south and north bound sections of the parkway. The inner sections continue to use steel guide-rails.
Woodbine Avenue looking south at Finch Avenue East in 1965. This area was still mostly rural at that time. This road was meant to ultimately become part of the Don Valley Parkway, but was taken over by the province in 1973 and became part of today's Highway 404.
The newly-completed Don Valley Parkway looking north to its then northern end at Lawrence Avenue in 1963. It was extended to Sheppard Avenue three years later.
The Don Valley Parkway under construction at Pottery Road in 1959
Approaching Highway 401 looking north
Memorial poppy added to the corner of the road sign along the City of Toronto's 'Route of Heroes' which included the Don Valley Parkway north of Bloor Street.
On August 31, 2011, the Don Valley Parkway turned 50 years old. Click on this link for a video news item about this including comments from the owner of this web site:
The Parkway of Least Resistance Plan
In August 2012, a group known as PoLR (Parkway of Least Resistance) came forward with a plan to eliminate the Don Valley Parkway and replace it with a busway and bicycle paths. Here is what their report stated:
The Parkway of Least Resistance challenges current views and uses of the Don River valley by reconciling conflicts between the DVP highway and encompassing natural systems. Eliminating the DVP as we know it is the instigation for four dramatic proposals:
The Don Valley Parkway (DVP) was given that name because it was meant to be part park and part highway. It was designed to give drivers a moment to be in nature each day as part of their commute. Instead, drivers spend hours a day stuck in gridlock on the DVP. Ironically, this gridlock degrades the environment and wastes drivers' time, fuel and money, making it difficult for them to spend leisure time enjoying exercise, social time or a pause for reflection in nature.
Natural elements, like water, always take the "path of least resistance". This expression means that a moving object will follow whichever route has the least friction and the fewest barriers. We believe that our masterplan outlines the simplest way for people, goods and natural elements to flow through the Don Valley.
Our plan eliminates the bottleneck effect currently experienced on the DVP by offering travellers numerous alternatives:
This transit plan makes room to restore ecological assets to the valley by planting much of the surface of the old DVP. We can also improve water quality and encourage a healthy ecosystem by creating settling ponds which biologically filter snow melt and roadway runoff before it reaches the Don River.
The PoLR provides options for transit. The Portage guided busway gives people the option to park their car at the edge of the city and relax and enjoy the view while travelling through the valley at high speed. Bikeways and pedestrian paths allow active users to get exercise during their trip, without coming into conflict with vehicular traffic. Infrastructure is designed to serve nature as well. The old DVP carriage way will be planted with new green space. On the valley floor, salt marshes will filter water before it reaches the river, improving the integrity of the Don River ecosystem.
In addition to providing alternatives for transit, the PoLR provides alternatives to travelling at all. Our plan creates new social spaces that invite people to linger in the valley. Amenities such as parks programming and campsites encourage users to experience the wild side of the urban river valley. Paths, bridges and picnic benches welcome casual meandering along the riverside.
Click on this link for details of the PoLR plan: http://polr.ca/project.html
NOTE: The Get Toronto Moving transportation plan believes that this PoLR plan for the Don Valley is completely unworkable and should not be taken seriously because streets such as Don Mills Road and Victoria Park Avenue would not be able to handle the extra 100,000 + cars and trucks from the Don Valley Parkway. This plan was never taken seriously and went nowhere.
GO bus on expressways. They would now use the shoulder of the Don Valley Parkway as their own lane to pass congested traffic during rush hour
Views of the Don Valley Parkway from north to south today
Photos courtesy of Scott Steves - DVP Images
Click on these pictures to enlarge them
Click on these pictures to enlarge them
The newly-built Don Valley Parkway looking north to Eglinton Avenue in 1961. It ended there at that time.
Don Valley video:
View driving north on the Don Valley Parkway from the Gardiner Expressway to Highway 401
In 2010, the Don Valley Parkway north of Bloor Street was dedicated as part of the City's 'Route of Heroes' which was the route which bodies of Canadian service personnel killed in overseas conflicts were brought along to the coroner's office in downtown Toronto. This was the City's section of the Provincial 'Highway of Heroes' which was part of Highway 401. New signs were erected along the Parkway to commemorate the 'Route of Heroes' designation and the memorial poppy used on Remembrance Day was added to some of the existiing signs.
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