A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto
Toronto has not built any major roads since 1971 when construction of the rest of the Allen Expressway was cancelled. The only new road to be built since then was Black Creek Drive and that was constructed by the Provincial Government in 1982. The lack of road construction has been due to political reasons. Toronto's traffic has grown three times since the 1970's and congestion levels are reaching gridlocked proportions. It is time for Toronto to start building roads again in addition to subway construction, but on a moderate scale and only using existing available corridors such as under existing arterial roads, along existing rail and hydro corridors in order to preserve neighbourhoods and not demolish homes or businesses. Electric self-driving cars are the way of the future and new roads will be needed to accommodate them.
The Province of Ontario built and maintains a system of Provincial Freeways including the QEW and the 400-series Highways. Highways 400, 401, 404, 409 and 427 are the Provincial Freeways within the City of Toronto’s boundaries. The Province transferred the Toronto section of the QEW (now part of the Gardiner Expressway) and Highways 2A and 27 (now an arterial road) to the City of Toronto in 1997.
Toronto built the Gardiner Expressway east to Leslie Street, the Don Valley Parkway north to Highway 401 and the Allen Expressway (originally the Spadina Expressway) only as far south as Lawrence Avenue between 1954 and 1971. Plans were drawn up to extend the Allen Expressway to Bloor Street, extend the Gardiner Expressway east into Scarborough and extend Highway 400 south to the Gardiner.
These plans were abandoned as the City stopped building expressways in 1971 when further construction of the rest of the Allen Expressway was cancelled due to protests for neighbourhood preservation. The Allen was, however, later extended as an arterial road from Lawrence Avenue to Eglinton Avenue, as the right-of-way had already been prepared for it, hence the current name of Allen Road. Cancellation of the rest of the Allen also affected other planned GTA expressways at that time. However, without constructing less damaging alternate expressway routes, this decision has been considered the most devastating blow to growth and mobility in southern Ontario. Highway 400 was extended only to just south of Eglinton Avenue, but as an arterial road known as Black Creek Drive and the section of the eastern Gardiner Expressway between the Don River and Leslie Street was demolished in 2001 as it was under-utilized and would not be extended.
In 2000, the City of Toronto adopted the Road Classification Plan as part of the Official Plan. That report gave a specific classification for each road in Toronto as expressway, major arterial, minor arterial, collector and local road. The Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway, Allen Expressway from Eglinton Avenue to Transit Road, just north of Wilson Avenue, and Highway 2A are classified as ‘expressways’ due to their important function within the City’s overall transportation infrastructure inventory. This is enshrined in the City's Official Plan and the expressway status of these roads must be maintained.
Major missing links in the roads system exist in the northwest and in the east which can be served by minor new arterial road links, providing a continuous arterial roads system.
Proposed Arterial Road Links
Gaps in the arterial road grid also need to be filled in to maintain a continuous network of streets which carry buses, pedestrians and bicycles as well as cars. Breaks in Toronto’s arterial road system grid, especially in the Leaside, Beaches and Junction areas, must be linked to improve mobility and provide more direct bus services. No new roads should be built in the Rouge Valley Park which should be preserved in its natural state. There are several identifiable gaps in Toronto's arterial road grid which need to be addressed.
Building Underground Automated Highways
Will taking the highway one day involve closing your eyes and letting automated systems drive you through a system of subterranean tunnels?
There's a great deal of support for the underground automated highway system concept, and futurists and transportation experts alike have been forecasting aboveground automated highway systems (AHS) for decades. Most experts agree that when it comes to letting machines drive you through underground tunnels, it's probably more a question of when, rather than if.
Experts predict we're somewhere between 50 and 100 years away from the reality of taking the UAH to grandma's house. Creating such a transportation system, perhaps in the United States or Europe, would be a massive undertaking and to pull it off, we'd need to experience advancements in three major fields:
1. A working automated highway system: As the saying goes, you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. For the majority of society to start using a UAH, they would first need to embrace the system and technology aboveground. And appropriate vehicles would be an essential part of any automated highway system. For instance, you couldn't launch a hovercraft-only lane on the interstate this year and expect everyone to drive in it. People would have to gradually become accustomed to the technology, purchase new hovercrafts and, if possible, update old vehicles to the new hovercraft standard. If AHSs were introduced slowly, the necessary vehicle guidance technology would have enough time to properly develop and catch on with mainstream consumers. This way, by the time the first UAH is introduced, enough drivers will be able to use them.
2. Zero-emission vehicles: Automated or not, an underground highway would involve a great deal of traffic whizzing through subterranean passages. Such a system would be challenging to ventilate without having to pump out clouds of vehicle exhaust. You'd need vehicles that produce zero emissions through the use of fuel cells, batteries, solar power, hydrogen power or other energy-efficient methods.
3. Improved tunnel-boring technology: Obviously, the creation of an underground highway is going to involve a great deal of digging. The Channel Tunnel, which runs 31 miles (50 kilometres) underneath the English Channel, took four years to complete [source: Encyclopaedia Britannica]. Imagine how much time it would take to complete a tunnel running the 2,776 miles (4,468 kilometres) between New York and Los Angeles? Some experts also contend that fully automated tunnel-boring technology would need to be perfected before UAHs could become a reality.
How does our current technology stack up against this list?
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the country's highways cover 160,000 miles (256,000 kilometres), carrying hundreds of millions of vehicles. Each year, more than 40,000 individuals die on these highways, costing the nation $137 billion. If you consider that human error is the leading cause in 90 percent of crashes, creating automated guidance systems makes more sense than ever [source: Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center]Building Underground Automated Highways
Automated Traffic Underground
Each year, researchers make new strides in a number of technologies that would play a huge role in diverting automated traffic underground. Some of the existing technology is very promising, suggesting we might actually embark on our first subterranean road trip sometime in the next century.
When it comes to designing an aboveground automated highway system, much of the technology has been around for more than a decade. In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Transportation sponsored the National Automated Highway System Consortium (NAHSC), which resulted in a very promising demonstration of current technology. The NAHSC equipped eight cars with several different automated driving systems. These included radar to detect other vehicles and magnetic and visual sensors to follow a length of highway marked with buried magnetic sensors and visual markers. Over the course of the demonstration, these vehicles traveled a combined 8,000 miles (12,875 kilometres) and carried 4,000 passengers without incident [source: Smart].
Realizing the dream of self-driving cars will involve developing improved collision avoidance systems (versions of this are already on the market in some vehicles), artificial intelligence and automated, real-time routing systems. Experts predict that the first examples of automated highway systems will emerge in the form of special lanes, similar to high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, designated for automated commercial trucking operations. From there, as the technology becomes more reliable and available, civilian use of AHS technology will steadily grow.
On the zero emissions front, a number of major automobile companies and private design groups are working diligently to create cleaner and more efficient fuel systems for vehicles. From General Motors' hydrogen-powered Hy-wire to the Reva G-Wiz Automatic Electric Vehicle currently available in India and the United Kingdom, the technology is steadily becoming more practical and efficient.
But what about automated tunnel-drilling technology? While you might think the idea of massive, robot worms drilling their way through the earth sounds like something from the age of Morlocks, the technology is not that far off. Several countries have continued to pursue tunneling projects and associated technologies during the last decade, leading to a decrease in tunneling costs and an increase in efficiency. Recent tunneling costs have dipped as low as $1.50 per cubic foot, and the latest tunnel-boring machines can tunnel through various terrains at a rate of 20 feet (six metres) per hour [source: Smart].
Most researchers agree that improved earthquake protection systems must be developed to ensure the safety of UAH travelers. However, designers are encouraged by past incidents where underground structures moved with the land during quakes, resulting in relatively little damage. In fact, after an earthquake struck Japan in 1995, underground projects were the least damaged structures in the city of Kobe. A massive tunneling project would also create a great deal of dirt and rock, which would need to be relocated elsewhere. Planning where to transport it would be a challenge, but using the theoretical AHS on the surface would expedite the process of moving this earth to its final drop point.
Toronto needs more expressways in two directions: in the northwest and in the east. Underground toll tunnels can be utilized to complete the unfinished expressways: Allen Expressway south to Exhibition Place and north to Highway 407; Highway 400 to the end of Front Street at Bathurst Street; and the Gardiner Expressway east to Highway 401 in Scarborough.
Streetcars in mixed traffic should be phased out as this causes congestion. Streetcars should be replaced with energy-saving trolleybuses which, unlike streetcars, can maneuver around street blockages.
The proliferation of bicycle lanes on major arterial roads by removing traffic lanes should cease. This is not safe and reduces needed road space. Bicycle lanes should be placed along minor and local roads. They can be placed along major roads if traffic lanes are maintained and not removed. College Street is an example where this works well. There are two through traffic lanes and bicycle lanes on either side. Everything runs smoothly. An extensive network of off-road cycle trails as proposed in this plan will reduce the need for bicycle lanes on streets and increase cyclist safety.
Building roads actually does a good job of cutting traffic congestion, and not just building expensive public transit. See this article from Toronto's Globe and Mail newspaper from 2013: Sick of Congestion? Build roads not transit.
The following extensions to Toronto’s arterial roads system are recommended:
Have new tunnels like these been built before? Yes - in Sydney, Australia
NorthConnex is a 9-kilometre (5.6 mi) twin-tube motorway tunnel in northern Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, opened on 31 October 2020. It acts as a tunnel bypass of the congested Pennant Hills Road, connecting the M1 Pacific Motorway to the M2 Hills Motorway.
Follow this link to watch a video about the new NorthConnex Tunnel
WestConnex is a 33-kilometre (21 mi) predominately underground motorway scheme partially completed and partially still currently under construction in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The motorway scheme is a joint project of the New South Wales and Australian governments.
Follow this link to watch a video about the new WestConnex Tunnel
The same company which built these tunnels in Sydney, Australia has opened an office in Canada - in Montreal. They are looking for projects here. If the Aussies can do it, so can Canadians! Below are pictures of the new tunnels in Sydney. Toronto could have these!
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