The eastern section of the elevated Gardiner

Expressway being demolished in 2001. It was

replaced by a surface boulevard with double

lane ramps near the Don River

The Gardiner Expressway under construction along a former hydro corridor looking west from Dowling Avenue 1957. The hydro towers are still to be removed. Photo courtesy of the Parkdale Village Historical Society

Sketch of the 'Great Street' surface boulevard to replace the elevated Gardiner Expressway 2006​

F.G. Gardiner Expressway

Looking west from the Don Valley Parkway across downtown Toronto 1964

The vacant extension corridor at McCowan Road in Scarborough looking east 

Ice from the CN Tower

On March 5, 2007, a section of the Gardiner Expressway was closed between Spadina Avenue and Jarvis Street due to the threat of ice about the size of a kitchen table falling from the CN Tower. Several days before, a storm with snow and freezing rain had caused a great deal of ice to accrete on the tower. As the weather warmed and the sun heated the tower's concrete, large pieces of ice began falling off the tower and falling hundreds of metres to the ground below. Although nobody was injured, the Gardiner was closed as a precautionary measure. On March 6, cooler weather reduced the risk of falling ice, and prevailing wind conditions had changed, reducing the risks of ice falling onto the highway; the road was reopened subsequently.

Concrete from the Kipling Avenue bridge

On May 3, 2007 at around 7:00 a.m., a chunk of concrete about the size of a loaf of bread fell from the Kipling Avenue bridge onto the Gardiner Expressway. It missed cars and caused no damage, bouncing harmlessly away despite the morning rush hour traffic. City crews were quickly sent to close off lanes of traffic to begin an inspection of the structure, which is a late 1960s post-tensioned design built by the province while it was still part of the QEW. This incident raised fears about safety of the highway, particularly with memories of the recent overpass collapse in Laval, Quebec, still fresh in the minds of motorists and media. 

Tamil protest

On the evening of May 10, 2009, as part of the ongoing Tamil demonstrations in Canada, approximately 2000 protestors blocked the downtown section of the Gardiner Expressway in both directions, leaving thousands of motorists stranded for several hours, and backing up traffic on the Expressway for several kilometres. Toronto Police chief Bill Blair called this demonstration by Tamil protestors on the Gardiner "unlawful" and "unsafe." Police forces from across the Greater Toronto Area including the Ontario Provincial Police were brought in for reinforcement. The highway was reopened shortly after 12:00 a.m., when the protestors moved back to Queen's Park. This marked the first time that the Expressway was shut down due to a large-scale demonstration.

Redevelopment Proposals 

Starting in the 1990s, several proposals have been made to dismantle or replace the central elevated section. Lack of municipal funds and political will have repeatedly stalled such plans. In 1991, the Royal Commission On The Future of the Toronto Waterfront released a report entitled "Report 15: Toronto Central Waterfront Transportation Corridor Study". It determined that the combination of the Gardiner, Lakeshore and railway uses tilted the land use to too much of a corridor use, and impacted negatively on the usage of the area. The report proposed that the City could A) retain or ameliorate; B) replace or C) remove the Expressway. The then-Metro Toronto and City of Toronto governments chose option "A" to retain or ameliorate. 

Demolition Proposal

In March 2000, the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Task Force proposed burying the section from east of the CNE to Yonge Street, as part of the plans for waterfront revitalization, at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. The City of Toronto accepted the report in principle and formed the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC), (today's Waterfront Toronto). 

In 2004, the TWRC issued a report to the City about possible options for the Gardiner. It was released to the public in September 2006. It proposed four options:

1. Leave the Gardiner as is, at an annual cost of $12 million
2. Replace the roadway with at-grade or below-grade roads at a total cost of $1.475 billion
3. Remove the Gardiner east of Spadina, Avenue and expand Lake Shore Boulevard at a cost of $758 million. This was the TWRC's recommended option
4. Remove the Lake Shore Boulevard roadway underneath the elevated section and construct buildings at a cost of $65 million

An overview of the recommended changes:
retain elevated portions from west of Dufferin Street to Spadina Avenue
extend Front Street west of Bathurst to connect with the Gardiner west of Strachan Avenue add new on/off ramps to connect with Front Street extension 
replace elevated portion from Spadina Avenue to Simcoe Street with two five-lane roadway (Lake Shore Blvd) separated 
by landscaped medianreplace elevated portion from Simcoe Street to Jarvis Street with two five-lane roadway (Lake Shore Blvd) separated by city block
replace elevated portion from Jarvis Street to Don River with two four-lane roadway (Lake Shore Blvd) separated by landscapedmedian
relocate Don River channel and re-build new ramps onto the Don Valley Parkway with surface roadway (Lake Shore Boulevard)

and the demolition of two other CNE buildings. To make up for the loss of lands, Metro infilled into Lake Ontario to the breakwater.

East of the CNE, the inland route proposed to fly over Fort York with a westbound on-ramp from Bathurst Street directly over the fort. Opposition from historical societies and the City of Toronto came to a head when the City refused to transfer the land to Metro Toronto. Gardiner himself and George O. Grant, the Metro Roads Commissioner, at first opposed the re-routing of the highway around the fort as it would mean a "greater than six-degree curve" in the highway, necessitating drivers to slow down. Gardiner rescinded his opposition to the change in March 1958 after visiting the site with a delegation from the City and historical societies. In 1959, the Fort was again under threat. A proposal was published to link Highway 400 to the Gardiner to meet in the vicinity of the Fort. Gardiner proposed that Metro Toronto and the City share the costs of relocating the Fort to the waterfront. In the end, the Fort was not moved, the westbound on-ramp from Bathurst Street was cancelled, no interchange was built in the area and the Highway 400 extension was never approved. The Gardiner passes over some of the Fort's property, and its width is wider in the area to provide for a possible connection with the 400.


Construction on the expressway began in 1955 with the building of the Queen Street Extension and the Keating Avenue (nowLake Shore Boulevard East) extension to the foot of Woodbine Avenue. The Gardiner was built in segments, with the final section being completed in 1966. The cost was approximately $110 million ($700 million in 2006 dollars). Construction of the first part of the actual Expressway started in 1956 with the Humber River bridge, followed by the Humber to Jameson segment.

Humber River to Jameson Avenue 

The route of the Expressway around Humber Bay necessitated the demolition of the Sunnyside Amusement Park on the lakeshore, which had existed since 1925. Some amusements were moved to the CNE, others sold off or just destroyed. The carousel was moved to the newly built Disneyland. The Amusement Park lands were subsumed by the Lake Shore Boulevard expansion to six lanes. Only the Sunnyside Pool and Palais Royale hall now exist from that time period. A pedestrian bridge crossing was built from the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue to the Palais Royale site.

The 1800s-era 'South Parkdale' residential neighbourhood at the foot of Jameson Avenue was demolished in 1957. The Expressway, like the railway just to the north, was cut through the area at lake shore level. An interchange was built at Jameson with on and off ramps to Lake Shore Boulevard, and Lake Shore Boulevard was expanded to six lanes in the area. This created a pedestrian barrier to the lake shore for Parkdale neighbourhood residents to the north. Efforts made by community groups over the next twenty years to restore access to the lake shore, including plans to cover the section of the Expressway and railway line, did not come to fruition. A pedestrian bridge over Lake Shore Boulevard at the foot of Jameson Avenue was eventually built.Jameson Avenue, which had previously been a street of mansions, saw intense apartment building development after the building of the Expressway.

Renaming as the Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway

The section between Humber River and Jameson Avenue was completed in 1958. The expressway, by then named the F. G. Gardiner Expressway, after the Metropolitan Toronto Chairman G. Frederick Gardiner, was officially opened by Gardiner and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost on August 8, 1958. When this section opened, it opened without guard-rails on the median dividing the different directions. Steel guard-rails and a 'glare shield' were approved for this section in 1965 at a cost of $200,000. The Highway 2 designation was transferred from Lake Shore Boulevard to the Gardiner Expressway.

Click on these two pictures to enlarge them

At Jameson Avenue looking west in 1954. The only area where demolition of homes was required - for the Dunn-Jamieson interchange for the expressway.

Before the Gardiner - looking east along Lake Shore Boulevard from near the Humber River in 1953. The expressway would be built in the hydro corridor next to the railway lines. Heavy traffic congestion on Lake Shore Boulevard created the need for the expressway to be built promptly.

The new bridges crossing the Humber River looking east​


The Gardiner Expressway

The Gardiner Expressway was one of the first projects undertaken by the newly formed government of Metro Toronto. Plans for the highway, first named the Lakeshore Expressway, were first developed prior to the formation of Metro Toronto. The route of the Expressway necessitated the paving over of parkland, demolition of residences and a declining popular amusement park, and a long elevated section to get through the downtown area. In the post-war period, the population of greater Toronto was growing at a rate of 50,000 persons per year, the ownership of private automobiles was growing, and the traffic between downtown Toronto and the western suburbs was regularly stuck in 'traffic jams.' (The Sunnyside stretch of the Lake Shore Boulevard and Queen and King Streets in the ParkdaleHigh Park area were apparently notorious for this.) Another reason for the proposal to build the lakeshore highway was the expected opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the need for adequate roadways to serve the expanded port facilities. The Gardiner Expressway is the only one of the three municipally-built expressways in Toronto to have had a highway number, being part of Highway 2. Other municipal highways in Toronto such as Highway 27 and Highway 2A are former Provincial highways.

1947 plan

In May 1947, the Toronto City Planning Board proposed building a four-lane "Waterfront Highway" from the Humber to the Don River. In November 1947, the City's works committee approved a four-lane highway, following a path beside the rail lines along the north of the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) lands, ending at Fleet Street to the East at a cost of $6 million, to be approved by a a plebiscite. The Toronto Board of Control approved the plan, but City Council voted against the plan after 11 hours of deliberation, sending it back to the Board of Control. In December 1947, the Board of Control abandoned the plan, on advice that the bridges for the highway would not be built due to a shortage of steel.

The unfinished east end at Leslie Street looking east prepared for an eastern extension to Scarborough

View of the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway from the Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street before demolition

Click on these pictures to enlarge them

The ribbon cutting opening ceremony of the surface section of the Gardiner Expressway from the Humber River to Jameson Avenue (the first section to open) on August 8, 1958 performed by both Metro Toronto Chairman Frederick Gardiner (left) and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost (right)

The shoreline route was opposed by the City of Toronto and the Toronto Harbour Commission, and Margison was tasked with plotting a route north of the CNE grounds. This plan was delivered in July 1954. The change to an inland route north of the CNE was estimated to cost another $11 million as the homes to the west of the CNE grounds would have to be purchased and demolished. This change moved the route from the Humber to the Ontario Hydro right-of-way next to the railway tracks, saving 11 acres (45,000 m2) of waterfront. The expressway was moved to the north of Lake Shore Boulevard in the Sunnyside segment and the Jameson Avenue area.

The inland route, while not opposed in the Sunnyside and Jameson areas, faced opposition in its proposed route in the CNE to downtown segment. Alternative route proposals emerged in 1954 from the Toronto Harbour Commission, which wanted the route moved further north, and planner Edwin Kay, who proposed a tunnel through downtown. The decision was then made to proceed with the non-contentious parts of the original Margison plan, to build a new Humber bridge to connect with the QEW, the Queen Street extension, and the Humber River to Dowling section, demolishing Sunnyside Park and South Parkdale. Metro also approved the eastern section of the expressway from Sherbourne Street to the east, but the central, elevated section was left for further deliberation. Metro approved $31 million for the eastern and western sections in its 1955 budget, but omitted the Humber River bridge.

The first section of municipal expressway in Toronto

The Gardiner Expressway around Humber Bay after

it opened in 1958. Very little traffic.

The 'hybrid' solution for the eastern Gardiner Expressway which would realign the expressway closer to the railway lines and swing north into the Don Valley Parkway, allowing land to the south and east to be developed. 

The options looked at for reconfiguring the elevated Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway

Click on the image below to enlarge it

Looking west along Lake Shore Boulevard at Leslie Street. These pillars from the demolished section of expressway, retained as public art​

1955 Plan for a network of expressways in all directions across Toronto branching from the Lake Shore (later Gardiner) Expressway

Section of the elevated Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis Street to the Don River underwent an environmental assessment for demolition or rehabilitation between until 2015.

The election of Mayor Rob Ford in 2010 changed the situation with the elevated Gardiner Expressway. The new mayor vowed to maintain all of the expressway and the environmental assessment looking at removing the section east of Jarvis Street was stalled. The new council elected in 2010 voted to spend $15 million per year to fix and maintain the elevated expressway. New bases for the light poles were also installed and broken poles were replaced. After chunks of concrete had repeatedly fallen from the structure, independent inspectors were brought in to do an assessment of the state of the structure in 2012 and they found that the deterioration was worse than City inspectors had previously admitted. The budget for repairs was immediately increased from $15 million to $35 million per year to bring the structure up to standard. Renewed debate on tearing down the structure was expected but it failed to materialize.

Link to the website for the consultation on the Gardiner East Environmental Assessment

Gardiner video: View driving east on the Gardiner Expressway from Highway 427 to the Don Valley Parkway 

On November 21, 2011, a CBC article featured the future of the Gardiner Expressway. Click on this link to read the article which includes comments from the owner of this web site:

2018 Municipal election seals the fate of the Gardiner

Mayor John Tory ran for re-election in the 2018 municipal election against former Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat. Tory remained committed to the hybrid rebuild of the eastern Gardiner while Keesmaat wished to revive the failed tear-down option of the eastern Gardiner. Mayor John Tory was re-elected with over 60% of the vote and Jennifer Keesmaat could only muster 23%. Mayor Tory was given a huge mandate for his agenda. This sealed the fate of the eastern elevated Gardiner, killing off the tear-down and boulevard plan and confirmed that the elevated expressway was here to stay with the eastern section being rebuilt, starting in 2019. The Jarvis Street to Cherry Street elevated section would be rehabilitated between 2019 and 2021 and the new Don Valley ramps and new eastern terminus would be completed between 2021 and 2024.

Exit numbers were introduced on to the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) in 2018 as continuations of the Province's exit numbers on the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 404.

At Sunnyside looking east​

At Royal York Road looking east​

Views of the Gardiner Expressway from west to east today

Photos courtesy of Scott Steeves - Kings Highway 2 Images 

Click on these pictures to enlarge them

The elevated Gardiner Expressway at Strachan Avenue looking east

1959 plan for the section of the Gardiner Expressway past the CNE in a subway-type tunnel. Due to cost, this was built on an elevated structure instead.

Click on this set of pictures to enlarge them

The elevated Gardiner Expressway looking east at the Don Valley Parkway​

The elevated Gardiner Expressway looking west at Jarvis Street with a nice view of downtown and the C.N. Tower​

Demolition of the eastern terminus of the Gardiner Expressway near Carlaw Avenue in September 2021 to make way for the new Hybrid plan.

The elevated Gardiner Expressway at Jarvis Street looking east

2021 work begins on Gardiner East hybrid plan

In September 2021, construction work began on the Gardiner East hybrid plan with the demolition of the existing eastern terminus of the Gardiner Expressway from the Don Valley Parkway to Carlaw Avenue. This was completed within one month and was followed by reconstruction of this section of Lake Shore Boulevard into a grand landscaped boulevard. The bridge over the mouth of the Don River would be replaced and lengthened also. Soon after, the new ramps to the Don Valley Parkway, north of the existing ramps, will be built. Then the old ramps will be demolished and a new eastern terminus of the Gardiner Expressway into Lake Shore Boulevard, east of Cherry Street, will be constructed. By 2024, the project will be completed.

The newly-completed Gardiner Expressway westbound lanes at Dufferin Street looking east in 1962

York Street to the Don Valley Parkway 

This segment was completed in 1964. In the original proposal, this segment went to the ground with a clover-leaf interchange with the Don Valley Parkway. It was instead constructed as an elevated section that passes over Lake Shore Boulevard and at its eastern end forks into a flyover of the Don River mouth and a separate connector to the east. The section between the Parkway and Yonge Street was built eight lanes wide. 

A total of $500 million would be spent over many years to repair the elevated expressway in sections from Dufferin Street to Jarvis Street. The environmental assessment looking at options of maintain, improve, replace or removal for the section east of Jarvis Street only was restarted. ​

Section of the elevated Gardiner Expressway from Spadina Avenue to the Don River recommended for demolition by the TWRC in 2004

Councillor Jane Pitfield, who was running for Mayor, criticized the proposal, stating that "From the canvassing I have done all over the city, the majority of people say they want the Gardiner to stay where it is." Suburban councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby and Doug Holyday (now a Progressive Conservative M.P.P.) came out opposed while inner-city councillor Kyle Rae fought for the proposal. Mayor David Miller did not favour the proposal either, stating that there were other, higher priorities The proposal did not come to Council for discussion and vote.

In May 2008, Waterfront Toronto (the former TWRC) proposed the demolition of the segment from Jarvis Street to the Don River and construction of a widened Lake Shore Boulevard in the style of University Avenue at a projected cost of $200 to $300 million. The proposal shelved the previous plan to demolish the central section east of Spadina Avenue and the construction of the Front Street Extension due to its high cost. Waterfront Toronto proposed to get started on the environmental assessment of the demolition east of Jarvis Street, which was expected to take up to five years and cost $10 million. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong criticized the proposal, pointing out that the city already had a $300 million backlog of road repairs. Mayor David Miller endorsed the proposal, noting that the funds for the demolition and the eight-lane boulevard would come from monies saved by not building the Front Street Extension, and money saved on the maintenance of the elevated highway. In July 2008 City Council voted to proceed with the environmental assessment. In March 2009, Waterfront Toronto started the environmental assessment consultation process, with open houses and an online consultation web site. 

Replacement proposals

In 1996, the Crombie-led Waterfront Trust asked the builders (Canadian Highways International Corp) of the Highway 407 toll road to investigate replacing the Gardiner.[39] The Corporation proposed a tunnel to replace the elevated section from Dufferin to Yonge Street at a cost of $1 billion. City staff pointed out that the tunnel would have to avoid several obstacles including:  

1.                twelve-foot diameter storm sewers just west of Fort York and under Portland Street; 
2.                a high voltage electrical line under Strachan Avenue; 
3.                a filtered water intake to the John Street pumping station; 
4.                a streetcar line running under lower Bay Street; 
5.                a streetcar loop on the north side of the Exhibition Grounds; and the Don River 

The proposal planned to put tolls on the new roadway to pay for the cost of building it. 

In 2005, a proposal named the "Toronto Waterfront Viaduct" was presented by a group of Toronto citizens, calling for the replacement of the existing elevated expressway with an 8 to 10-lane cable-stayed viaduct over the Lakeshore rail corridor. This proposal combined the freeway with a new Lakeshore light rail transit system, and lanes for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The proposed design used cantilever bridge structure to minimize disruption of the railroad. By building the replacement route on a parallel corridor, current traffic would not be disrupted. 

Two proposals were made public in June 2009, when the City of Toronto Council was considering the proposal to tear down the eastern section. Mark Fraser, a Toronto CAD technician, and local resident opposed to the removal of the Gardiner, put forth a proposed design for a complete overhaul of the Gardiner he called the "Green Expressway". The design would consist of either a channel or tunnel built under the Gardiner with two levels of traffic (one for local highway traffic, and one for express traffic through the city, a ground level local street and a Parks, and retail concourse built overhead of the street. 

Later in June 2009, Les Klein, a Toronto architect also opposed to the removal of the Gardiner, proposed adding an upper level deck covered with plants, bike lanes, walking paths and solar panels(for expressway lighting) on a 7 kilometres stretch of the expressway, entitled the 'Green Ribbon'. The estimated cost was between $500 million to $800 million (CAD).  

In November 2010, architectural designer Peter Michno released a design for changing the elevated section of the Gardiner Expressway into a long enclosed glass tube filled with cars with a green space underneath. He envisioned a vented glass-covered tube that would run the seven kilometres from end to end of the elevated section from Dufferin Street to east of the Don Valley Parkway. Tolls would fund the construction costs and beneath the roadway would be new green space and pedestrian walkways. Michno's idea had the support of Michael Comstock, a prominant principal architect in the city and the President of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA). Waterfront Toronto, due to release the final recommendations for its environmental assessment of replacing the section east of Jarvis Street by early 2011, was open to considering new ideas for the expressway.
Regardless of whichever plan for the Gardiner's future is ultimately adopted, the elevated section is gradually coming down. The easternmost section of the elevated expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street was demolished in 2001 at a cost of $44 million (though it was estimated at only $34 million) and now the City of Toronto plans to demolish the next section from Jarvis Street to the Don River at a cost of $300 million. An environmental assessment of this project looking at four options:

  1. Do nothing
  2. Maintain and ameliorate the existing elevated expressway (improve the look of it with new uses under it)
  3. Replace the elevated expressway with a new expressway on the surface, tunnelled or above the parallel railway lines
  4. Remove the elevated expressway and replace it with an expanded Lake Shore Boulevard.

Waterfront Toronto prefers the last option of replacing the elevated expressway with a boulevard, but the environmental assessment must look at all options. The assessment is due to report in 2013 with the project estimated to be completed by 2015. Cost and Federal and Provincial investment are important factors to be considered. The door is open for the rest of the elevated expressway to eventually be demolished if the section east of Jarvis Street is removed. A City staff report showed that the removal option would increase traffic congestion, so a study had to be initiated to see how the congestion could be mitigated with this option.

The Gardiner Expressway nearing completion west of York Street in 1962

Metro Chairman Frederick G. Gardiner pointing at plans for the expressway in 1954. 

The route to the north of the CNE followed a Hydro right-of-way beside the railway tracks to the north of the Exhibition, using approximately 10 acres (40,000 m2) of CNE land, and requiring the removal of the original Dufferin Gate 

The new eastern terminus ramps of the Gardiner Expressway between the Don Valley Parkway and Carlaw Avenue after 2001

A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto

The completed elevated Gardiner Expressway looking west from the Don Valley Parkway across downtown Toronto 1969

From completion to the present

By 1963, the first rooftop billboards along the Expressway were built, targeting the daily 40,000 to 60,000 motorists. Companies paid up to $3,000 per month to locate their billboard. Today, there are dozens of neon signs, billboards and video boards in the proximity of the Expressway, mostly in the sections between Roncesvalles Avenue to Spadina Avenue and east of Jarvis Street.

By 1966, rush hour traffic and accidents in the Jameson area meant that the Jameson westbound on-ramp was closed permanently during rush hours. That same year, after criticism of the safety of the expressway by Toronto coroner Morton Shulman, Metro started installing guardrails on the full length of the Gardiner and Don Valley expressways. 

In 1968, the speed limit was proposed to be raised from 50 mph to 55 mph (today it is 90 km/h). The expressway was already experiencing congestion at the time, and journalists openly questioned whether anyone could reach that top speed with the "horrendous volume of traffic" during peak rush times. 

In 1974, a transportation study recommended against construction of the proposed eastern extension across Scarborough, however the city held on to lands acquired for it. By 1994, it was decided that this extension was not going to be revived, so the plan was dropped.

In 1988, the unmaintained grassy hillside in the Sunnyside area on the north side of the Gardiner from Roncesvalles Avenue to Wilson Park Avenue was cleaned up and planted with floral logos, with 26 tonnes (26 long tons) of garbage removed in the process. The advertising, which pays for the maintenance and cleaning of the hillside, permits no slogans and no alcohol or tobacco logos. The logos are planted yew bushes and are maintained by an independent company on the land, which is owned by the Canadian National Railway.

In the late 1980s, Metro Toronto proposed to widen the Gardiner to eight lanes from Strachan Avenue to the Humber, and extendFront Street from Bathurst Street west to connect with the highway. The widening proposal was never implemented as it depended on provincial funding which never materialized. Metro had planned the Front Street extension as part of allowing the Bay-Adelaide office complex and other development downtown to proceed. The Province did approve the Front Street extension, but the then-City of Toronto Council voted against it. The Front Street extension proposal was later resurrected as part of proposals to redevelop or dismantle the central section of the Gardiner.

The old Gardiner and Lake Shore Boulevard bridges over the Humber River, which had been in service since the 1950s, were removed and replaced by new structures in 1998 and 1999. The old bridge pillars, which were resting on soil, not on bedrock, had sunk by a metre, giving the eastbound Gardiner a roller-coaster ride or "Humber hump". The bridges and connecting roadways were replaced at a cost of $100 million. Fatal collisions had occurred at the location, including a 1995 incident where an eastbound Corvette became airborne and collided with vehicles in the westbound lanes. 

In the 1990s, after 30 years of usage, the City found that the central elevated section needed extensive repairs, and the ongoing maintenance was expensive. Proposals started to be floated for the demolition of the Expressway. In the end, city council voted to have the elevated section extensively rehabilitated and the elevated section in downtown Toronto was closed down for extensive repairs.

The 1960's conventional illumination, originally fluorescent, later remodelled into low pressure sodium in the late 1970's, has been replaced by a combination of shaded high pressure sodium high-mast lighting and conventional high pressure sodium lighting since the early 2000's. 

The highway was never expanded since its initial construction. Today, commuting traffic into and out of the downtown core moves very slowly during the rush hours, leading to growth in commuting by other modes. Introduced in the 1960s, the province's GO Transit has increased train frequency and capacity along the Lakeshore route to the point where GO now carries 19% of inbound commuters to downtown, while the Gardiner carries 8%. The TTC carries 47% of commuters and other auto routes account for 26% of inbound traffic, according to 2006 figures. 

The former eastern terminus of the Gardiner Expressway near Carlaw Avenue which existed from 2001 to 2021.

The elevated Gardiner Expressway at Parliament Street looking east

At Dufferin Street looking east​. High pressure sodium lamps had been installed by 2006.

Traffic congestion on the central elevated Gardiner Expressway at Spadina Avenue
(This picture is not enlargeable)​

The eastern dead end of the Gardiner Expressway at Leslie Street, intended to continue east, 1966

Easternmost section of the elevated Gardiner Expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street demolished in 2001 and replaced with a landscaped Lake Shore Boulevard with a parallel bicycle path

Frederick Gardiner on the ramps to the Gardiner Expressway from the Don Valley Parkway just before the opening of this section in 1964

Some views of the elevated section of the Gardiner Expressway under construction in 1964

At Highway 427, at the current terminus of the Queen Elizabeth Way, looking east​

The downtown elevated section of the Gardiner Expressway under construction at York Street in 1963 looking east

Hybrid Option Wins

On June 11, 2015, after heated debate, City Council voted separately on each option for the eastern elevated Gardiner. Maintaining it as it was was outrightly rejected by a margin of 44-1 with Councillor and former Mayor Rob Ford casting the lone vote in favour of this option. Tearing down the section east of Jarvis Street and replacing it with a surface boulevard was rejected by a 26-19 vote. The hybrid plan was narrowly approved by a 24-21 vote. Design work and a further environmental assessment of the hybrid plan would begin with construction work to start in 2019. This vote signalled a change in City policy to one of improving traffic flow to ease gridlock. The Gardiner/Don Valley link would be maintained permanently. Though it was agreed to study options such as a tunnel and transferring the expressway to the Province or to a private company. Meanwhile, rehabilitation work would continue on the western sections of the elevated Gardiner, including deck replacement.

In November 2015, tunnelling options for any section of the Gardiner were dismissed by Council as too expensive. Three options for the eastern Gardiner hybrid plan were considered by the public works committee:

New realigned eastbound off-ramp connecting to Lake Shore Blvd. that would run close to the Gardiner without affecting adjacent development lands.
Cost: $260 million short-term “net present value,” the same as the council-approved plan
Land implications: Opens about 8.5 acres for new development
Reconstruct elevated link between Cherry St. and the DVP along more northerly alignment through the Keating Precinct, a Lower Donlands community.   
Cost: $350 million to $400 million net present value.

Land implications: Opens about 12.5 acres for new development.

Reconstruct elevated link between Cherry St. and the DVP along more northerly alignment through the Keating Precinct, a Lower Donlands community. Also, widen Don River rail bridge to enable tighter turns onto the DVP.
Cost: $380 million to $440 million net present value
Land implications: Opens about 13.5 acres for new development.

The Bentway

The Bentway, formerly known as Project: Under Gardiner, is a unique and innovative public space that will transform the vacant and forgotten area underneath Toronto's Gardiner Expressway into a new gathering place for today's Toronto, creating 1.75km of public space underneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway. The initial idea to transform the underside of the Gardiner Expressway into a public space came from Judy Matthews, a local Toronto urban planner, activist, and granddaughter of E. J. Lennox. On November 17, 2015, Matthews donated $25 million through the Judy and Wilmot Matthews Foundation to the City of Toronto, in order to realize the idea. The donation represented one of the most significant gifts in Toronto's history, and it was hoped that it would inspire other Torontonians to make similar philanthropic contributions to city-building initiatives. Waterfront Toronto, a revitalization agency representing the governments of Toronto, Ontario and Canada, was brought on board to collaborate with the city, along with Ken Greenberg Consultants Incorporated and Public Work to manage project planning and design. The conceptual vision of The Bentway will consist of a 1.75 kilometres long multi-use trail between Exhibition GO Station to Spadina Avenue. It will also consist of 55 outdoor separate civic areas referred to as "rooms," which will host activities such as farmer's markets, gardens, performance theatres and exhibition halls, spanning three main sections. The Bentway will span six Toronto neighbourhoods with a total of 77,000 residents: Liberty Village, Niagara, Fort York, Fashion District, CityPlace, and Harbourfront.

The Gardiner Expressway looking east

towards downtown in the 1960's

Traffic levels are growing.


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 Park Lawn Road looking east​​

The current eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway at the Don River, looking east

The redesigned east end of the expressway today

Click on these pictures to enlarge them​

The newly-opened first section of the Gardiner Expressway looking east at Sunnyside in 1959.

Thew new east end of the Gardiner Expressway looking west from Carlaw Avenue​

The Lakeshore Expressway 1954

In July 1953, prior to the formation of Metropolitan Toronto, the Metropolitan Executive Committee, chaired by Frederick G. Gardiner, ordered the planning of the Lakeshore Expressway as a four-lane or six-lane expressway from the Humber in the west to Woodbine Avenue in the east due to heavy traffic congestion on Lake Shore Boulevard east of the terminus of the Queen Elizabeth Way at the Humber River. The cost was estimated at $20 million. Route planning was given to the engineering firm Margison Babcock and Associates, with the proviso that an American firm expert in expressway building would be involved. Margison's plan was delivered in April 1954. The roadway was to be constructed in the Sunnyside area and CNE areas to the south of the present Lake Shore Boulevard. In the CNE area, the route would be on lands created from infilling of the shoreline to the breakwaters and an interchange was proposed in front of the Prince's Gate. East of the CNE the highway would be an elevated roadway above the existing Fleet Street, to just west of the Don River. The highway proceeded at grade from that point eastward, ending at Coxwell Avenue and Queen Street East. Interchanges were proposed for Jameson Avenue, Strachan Avenue, Spadina Avenue, York Street, Jarvis Street, Don Roadway, Carlaw, Keating (the present Lake Shore Boulevard East) and Coxwell Avenue. The cost was then estimated at $50 million. The plan also proposed extending Queen Street westwards through High Park to west of the Humber to connect with 'The Queensway' and extending Keating Avenue east to Woodbine Avenue.

Approaching the Humber River looking east​

The newly-opened first section of the Gardiner Expressway looking east near Jameson Avenue in 1959.

At Park Lawn Road looking east. This was part of the Province's Queen Elizabeth Way until 1997
There has been massive new condominium tower development along the expressway corridor recently​

The end of the Queen Elizabeth Way approaching the newly-opened Gardiner Expressway in 1958 looking east at the Humber River

The Bentway under the elevated Gardiner Expressway under construction

Looking west along the nearly-completed Gardiner Expressway towards downtown Toronto 1964

At the end of the QEW at the Humber River looking east

The downtown elevated section of the Gardiner Expressway under construction at Jarvis Street in 1963 looking south

1954 expressways plan for the then newly-created Metropolitan Toronto

Option 3 was the most favoured by City officials as it received the highest scores in an evaluation. It was also the most favoured in public meetings. This option moved the expressway closer to the parallel railway lines and opened up the Don River mouth. It also opened up the most amount of land for development, but it was the most expensive option. City Council would decide on the preferred option in March 2016. It would then go for a detailed design study with construction starting in 2019 and concluding by 2024. The issue of the eastern Gardiner Expressway would then be concluded. On March 31, 2016, the preferred Option 3 design was approved in a near unanimous vote of 36-5 since it moved the expressway away form the waterfront and opened up more space for waterfront development. The issue was now settled and construction would now begin in 2021. The final agreed upon design would look like this.

Looking west at the Humber River​

At Dufferin Street looking east

A sketch of The Bentway under the elevated Gardiner Expressway when completed

The elevated Gardiner Expressway st Jarvis Street looking west with a nice view of the C.N. Tower

Highway 427 to the Humber River

This segment, built as part of the Queen Elizabeth Way by the Province of Ontario, was transferred to Metropolitan Toronto (now the City of Toronto) in 1997, and was subsequently redesignated as part of the Gardiner Expressway, thus extending the Gardiner west from the Humber River to Highway 427. 

Until then, the Gardiner Expressway had also been part of Highway 2. It was the only one of the three municipal expressways in Toronto to also have a highway number (the others being the Don Valley and Allen Expressways which do not have a number). After the transfer of the former QEW section, the Highway 2 designation was switched back to Lake Shore Boulevard, where it had been before the Gardiner was built. The lengthened Gardiner containing the former QEW section east of Highway 427 would no longer have a highway number as well.

Views of the former Queen Elizabeth Way in Etobicoke in the 1990's

Photos courtesy of Michael Sgambelluri - Vintage Kings Highways

Click on these pictures to enlarge them

Photo showing the change in the east end of the Gardiner Expressway after demolition

The recently-built first section Gardiner Expressway looking west at South Kingsway where it joins the Queen Elizabeth Way in the early 1960's.

Views of the progress of demolition of the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street in 2001. New ramps were constructed west of Carlaw Avenue and some of the columns near Leslie Street were retained as public art.

Click on these pictures to enlarge them

Reconfiguring the eastern end from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway
In February 2014, Waterfront Toronto and the City staff released their report on their findings for the East Gardiner EA study. Their recommendation, as expected, was for removal of the elevated expressway and its replacement with a landscaped 8-lane boulevard east from Jarvis Street. This was met with great scepticism by the City Works Committee and City Council. The staff even admitted that this option would increase traffic congestion in the Lake Shore corridor, but it had other benefits, particularly the availability of land for development with the removal of the expressway. The issue was deferred for one year to the Spring of 2015 by the City Public Works Committee for further study including keeping an expressway link while being able to develop lands from the removal of the existing structure. No decision would be made for another year.

A new 'hybrid' option was put forward by Mayor John Tory in 2014. First proposed by First Gulf, the owners of the former Unilever property east of the Don River, this option would involve keeping the elevated expressway as it is from Jarvis Street to Cherry Street and realigning it from Cherry Street to the Don Valley Parkway by rebuilding it closer to the railway lines further north. The existing Gardiner/Don Valley interchange would then be removed and the land sold for development. Part of the elevated expressway would be removed, but the continuous expressway link to the Don Valley Parkway would be maintained by moving it further north. A decision between the removal option and the hybrid option would be made by City Council in June 2015. Eventually, it was decided to use the existing Gardiner/DVP ramps for the hybrid option as moving them further north would make a too tight turn into the Don Valley Parkway. The ramps to Lake Shore Boulevard east of the Don River would be moved to west of the Don River. The removal option would also be studed further to see if the projected increased traffic congestion could be mitigated.

Looking east across downtown Toronto before the arrival of the Gardiner Expressway in 1955.

Crumbling elevated section

The elevated  part of the expressway was not built to withstand the use of road salt in the winter. The salt created corrosion of the steel within the concrete pillars, which expanded the steel, and caused pieces of concrete to fall off. Remedial work had to be applied starting in the 1990s at a cost of $8 million per year. The remedial work included sealing expansion joints to force the salty water into the drains and extensive patching of the concrete pillars. Exposed steel was sand-blasted and repainted. 

The elevated section from the Don River to Leslie Street, intended for extension as the shelved Scarborough Expressway, was eventually demolished in 2001. Demolition was first proposed in 1990 by the Crombie Commission and the Gardiner-Lake Shore Task Force.

The segment was in need of expensive repairs and a 1996 environmental assessment determined that it would cost $48 million to refurbish the Gardiner from the Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street but only $34 million to tear it down. The final cost of the demolition was $44 million due to soil remediation which had to be done. Originally, this section came to an abrupt dead end at Leslie Street with single-lane ramps to and from Lake Shore Boulevard and Leslie Street. The original intent was to continue the expressway eastwards as the Scarborough Expressway ultimately connecting with Highway 401 in eastern Scarborough. After 1994, this eastern extension plan was dropped by Metropolitan Toronto from its plans, so by 1996 the City saw no need to keep the elevated eastern end from the Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street as it carried very little traffic and had Lake Shore Boulevard below it. There was always a backlog of traffic along Lake Shore Boulevard as far back as Coxwell Avenue waiting to get on to the single-lane ramp up on to the Gardiner Expressway.  The plan with the demolition was to build double-lane ramps at Bouchette Street west of Carlaw Avenue which was about 400 metres east of the Don River and which would improve traffic flow. Landscaping along Lake Shore Boulevard along with new bicycle paths would be installed. This would provide a proper permanent eastern terminus for the Gardiner east of the Don River merging into Lake Shore Boulevard which continued to the east.

There was much community opposition to the demolition of this part of the Gardiner for fear of traffic infiltrating into local streets. A fact that was to be eventually proven to be true. People wanted the new double-lane ramps put at the end of the existing elevated expressway at Leslie Street, but this would push the cost of the project up to $60 million. In reaction to this community opposition, the City proposed a compromise with an alternative plan of keeping up half of the eastern Gardiner and putting the new ramps east of Carlaw Avenue. This did not satisfy the film industry which had studios in this area and did not want noisy cars and trucks entering and exiting ramps outside their studios. Despite overwhelming public opposition to the project, the City approved the demolition and the project was carried out between 1999 and 2001. Despite assurances from the City that the rest of the Gardiner Expressway west of the Don Valley Parkway would remain intact, many people feared that the demolition of the eastern end would be the first step towards removal of the rest of the expressway. This fear would be proven true in time with new proposals to take down more of it coming later.

Eastbound traffic now exits to a newly constructed off-ramp that connects with 

Photos courtesy of Michael Sgambelluri - Vintage Kings Highways

Click on these pictures to enlarge them

The vacant extension corridor in Scarborough at Coronation Drive looking south and west

For more information on the proposed extension of the Gardiner Expressway east into Scarborough, please follow this link: Scarborough Expressway

At Sunnyside looking east. The original fluorescent lamps had been replaced by low pressure sodium lamps by 1980.

The Lake Shore (Gardiner) Expressway under construction looking west at Sunnyside in 1957. Sunnyside Amusement Park was demolished for the expressway and some homes in South Parkdale were demolished to make way for the Jameson Avenue-Dunn Avenue interchange with the Gardiner Expressway. This is the only major demolition to take place for the Gardiner.

The Gardiner Expressway-Don Valley Parkway interchange 1964

Demolition of the eastern section from the Don River to Leslie Street

The options looked at for dismantling the elevated Gardiner Expressway from the Don River to Leslie Street

Click on the image below to enlarge it​

The elevated Gardiner Expressway looking east at York Street
Note that there has been a lot of condominium tower development along the expressway corridor recently​

The eastern section of the elevated Gardiner Expressway looking west from the Don Valley Parkway

The newly-completed Gardiner Expressway at Bay Street in downtown Toronto in 1964

Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street

This segment was opened in July 1966 without ceremony. It ended just east of Leslie Street, and traffic was forced to exit to an interchange at Leslie Street down to the former Keating Street, which was renamed Lake Shore Boulevard. The design left the eastern end open for an extension east across Scarborough to Highway 401, known as the Scarborough Expressway.

Demolition of the elevated eastern Gardiner Expressway progresses

The eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway under construction looking east along Lake Shore Boulevard at Cherry Street in 1963 

The dead end of the eastern section of the elevated

Gardiner Expressway at Leslie Street before demolition

ready for a never-built eastern extension. The single

lane on-ramp had become very congested

The elevated Gardiner Expressway at the Don Valley Parkway under construction in 1963 looking west over the Don River

The east end of the first section of the Gardiner Expressway after its opening in 1959 looking east at Jameson Avenue. It ended here and the next section to Spadina Avenue was under construction, opening in 1962. Not much traffic on it yet.

Jameson Avenue to York Street 

The section between Jameson Avenue and Spadina Avenue was completed and opened on August 1, 1962 and the westbound lanes from York Street were opened on December 3, 1962. The eastbound lanes from Spandina to York opened in 1963. The elevated section starts from the north-east corner of the CNE. The route to the east of the CNE was modified to avoid passing over historic Fort York. This section was built wider to accommodate a possible interchange with the Highway 400 extension south to downtown, proposed by the Province of Ontario in 1956 and later cancelled.

East of Fort York, the Gardiner was built entirely as an elevated route, through a predominantly industrial area, to the south of railway lands to reach downtown. The roadway was built directly overhead of Fleet Street (Fleet is now called Lake Shore Boulevard West) through much of this section. The expressway off-ramp to York Street was developed as a two-lane eastbound 'finger' flying over Harbour Street, south of the main roadway, descending to Harbour Street with a circular off-ramp to York Streetnorthbound.