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Has the city buried an underground solution for the Gardiner?

This week council considers two possible fates for the Gardiner Expressway east of Jarvis: removal at the long-term cost of $461 million or a so-called hybrid rebuild of the elevated roadway at a long-term cost of $919 million.
How did it come down to these two options? Toronto has debated what to do with the Gardiner since before it was built between 1955 and 1964. Back in the 1990s, it was the western section that was under more scrutiny and in 2000, the city seriously considered burying the section of the Gardiner between the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and Yonge Street. In 2006, it was estimated that it would have cost $1.5 billion to bury the whole thing—a bargain compared to the options council is now contemplating.
Michael Meschino, principal of Entuitive engineering firm, holds out hope that the city will eventually come around to the idea that going underground is the best option. In the last few weeks, he’s been trying to drum up support for a concept, a collaboration with Chicago-based architects Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, that came out of a 2010 design competition by Waterfront Toronto.
“We’re talking about what to do with the Gardiner east of Jarvis, but the Gardiner runs across the entire city and everything east of Dufferin Street is elevated, so when you make a decision east of Jarvis, you’re going to affect what you can do west of Jarvis, which runs right through the city core,” says Meschino.
Entuitive’s proposal would put the Gardiner into an underground tunnel east of Jarvis. Traffic would come out of the tunnel east of Cherry Street and onto a bridge across the Don River to connect with the Don Valley Parkway. Lakeshore Boulevard would be moved north, up against the rail lands. The benefits, as Meschino sees it, are clearing a large amount of new space for new waterfront development, as well as maintaining a direct connection between the Gardiner and the DVP.
If you keep an elevated Gardiner, Meschino says, “you’re going to develop parcels of land but you’re not really going to develop a community. What we want to do is push all that northward and push Lakeshore Boulevard northward to make one community.”
The plan works best on the assumption that the downtown section of the Gardiner would eventually be moved underground. Critics don’t like the fact that the Gardiner is elevated downtown, goes into a tunnel for just two kilometres and is then elevated again to cross the Don, which is one of the reasons the idea was rejected. The price tag, estimated in 2010 to be about $1.6 billion, also makes it a harder sell, though Meschino says the freeing up of a large amount of quality development land could be used to offset the cost.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Michael Meschino
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