Toronto council votes 44-1 against keeping Gardiner Expressway as it is – at least part will be torn down

Former Toronto Mayor Rod Ford, who rode to power only five years ago on a promise to end the “war on the car,” found himself on the losing end of a 44-1 council vote Thursday on whether or not to demolish  all or part of the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway.

As someone who lived in Toronto for many years in the 1970s, it’s hard to imagine the Gardiner being removed, even though it was a parking lot for most of the day just 20 years after it was built, effectively severing the city from the Lake Ontario waterfront.

Clearly, though, the Gardiner is nearing its last days. Right across Canada — even in the freeway-heavy GTA — there’s massive public support for more people-friendly transportation and transit options. (Vancouver will consider the future of the much smaller Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts in September.)

Once it had agreed that change was required, council split 24-21 on what that change would be, with a narrow majority rejecting a complete teardown in favour of the so-called “hybrid” model, which would keep the elevated freeway west of the Don River while reducing it to an at-grade boulevard to the east.

Proponents of a complete removal —  the entire eastern section of the Gardiner would be replaced with an at-grade boulevard — have already vowed to keep the debate going.

The council split along urban/suburban lines, with downtown councillors overwhelmingly in favour of converting the entire eastern section to a boulevard. Vancouver council, in contrast, voted unanimously two years ago to pursue studies on replacement of the Viaducts, with staff to report to council this year.