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Gardiner Expressway
Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway
Formed: 1955 - completed
Direction: East/West Map
West end: Hwy 427 / QEW
East end: Don Valley Parkway
Major cities: Toronto, Ontario
A trailblazer for the Gardiner Expressway on Yonge Street.

The Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway, known locally as "the Gardiner", is an expressway connecting downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada with its western suburbs. Running close to the shore of Lake Ontario, it now extends from the junction of Highway 427 and the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) in the west to the foot of the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) in the east, just past the mouth of the Don River. East of Dufferin Street, the roadway is elevated, running above Lake Shore Boulevard east of Bathurst Street.

It is named for the first chair of the now-defunct Metro Council, Frederick G. Gardiner, who championed it, the Don Valley Parkway and Spadina Expressway projects. The six-lane section east of the Humber River was built in segments from 1955 until 1964 by the Metropolitan Toronto government with provincial highway funds. The ten-lane section west of the Humber was formerly part of the QEW provincial highway. The Gardiner Expressway is now wholly owned and operated by the City of Toronto.

When the Gardiner was built, it passed through industrial lands, now mostly converted to residential lands. Extensive repairs became necessary in the early 1990s, and since then the Gardiner has been the subject of several proposals to demolish it or move it underground as part of downtown waterfront revitalization efforts. One elevated section east of the Don River was demolished in 2001, and a current study is underway to demolish that part of the elevated section east of Jarvis Street to the Don.


Route description

Gardiner Expressway heading into downtown Toronto from the west.

From the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) and Highway 427 interchange, east to the Humber River, the Gardiner is straight, eight-to-ten lanes wide. This is the former QEW segment. From the 427 to Grand Avenue the highway passes through an area of residential, commercial and light industry. To the south are the neighbourhoods of Alderwood and Mimico. The highway curves approaching the Humber River passing the residential condominium towers of the The Queensway-Humber Bay neighbourhood along the waterfront, the Mr. Christie cookie factory and the Ontario Food Terminal on the north side. The segment east of the Humber is the original Gardiner segment and is six-to-eight lanes wide. Two eastbound lanes exit to Lake Shore Boulevard and the roadway narrows to the six lanes of the original segment at the Humber bridge.

East of the Humber the highway curves along Humber Bay, passing to the south of the Swansea neighbourhood, before passing the Sunnyside waterfront on the south and High Park and the Roncesvalles neighbourhood on the north side. Along the north side from Roncesvalles to Exhibition Place is the neighbourhood of Parkdale. Like the rail lines which run parallel to the Gardiner along its north side, the Gardiner is built in a cut from Dowling Avenue to Dufferin Street and is below grade. From Dufferin to Strachan Avenue, the highway is flanked by light industry and the Liberty Village neighbourhood to the north and the buildings of Exhibition Place on the south side. The highway becomes elevated at this point, rising at a gentle grade with a view of downtown Toronto straight ahead.

To the east of Strachan Avenue, the highway is entirely elevated, mostly overhead of Lake Shore Boulevard, between the buildings of downtown Toronto. Just east of Strachan, the highway passes Old Fort York on the north side and Coronation Park to the south. From Bathurst Street eastward to Yonge Street, the south side is developed with residential condominiums of the Harbourfront neighbourhood and office towers. On the north side, the highway passes the Rogers Centre, CN Tower and the Air Canada Centre landmarks interspersed with residential condominium towers. Two elevated eastbound lanes fork off south of Spadina to provide exit ramps to Yonge, Bay and York Streets. From Yonge east to the Don Valley Parkway, the rail lines run parallel to the Gardiner on the north side, and to the north of the rail lines is the low-rise residential development of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, the Distillery District and the West Don Lands. To the south of the highway, the land use is light industrial and waterfront lands in transition. The highway passes over the Don River with a ramp to connect to the Don Valley Parkway and descends in a ramp to end at Lake Shore Boulevard.

The Gardiner east of Yonge Street




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 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[1], 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.

1947 plan

In May 1947, the Toronto City Planning Board proposed building a four-lane "Waterfront Highway" from the Humber to the Don River.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

In July 1953, prior to the formation of Metro Toronto, the Metropolitan Executive Committee, chaired by Fred 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. The cost was estimated at 20 million dollars.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] 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.[9] 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.[10] 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[11], but omitted the Humber River bridge.[12]

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 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.[13] Gardiner rescinded his opposition to the change in March 1958 after visiting the site with a delegation from the City and historical societies.[14] 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.[15] 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 (now Lake 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 20 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.

The section between Humber River and Jameson Avenue was completed in 1958. The expressway, by then named the Gardiner Expressway, was officially opened by Gardiner and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost on August 8, 1958.[16] 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.[17]

The Gardiner Expressway from the Dufferin Street bridge, looking west toward the Jameson Avenue/Dunn Avenue exit.
Jameson Avenue to York Street

The section between Jameson Avenue and Spadina Avenue was completed and opened on August 1, 1962[18] and the westbound lanes from York Street were opened on December 3, 1962.[19] 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 Street northbound.

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.

Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street

This segment was opened in July 1966 without ceremony.[20] 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 a future connection with the Scarborough Expressway.

Highway 427 to the Humber River

This segment, built as part of the Queen Elizabeth Way by the Province of Ontario, was transferred to the City of Toronto in the late 1990s, and was subsequently redesignated as part of the Gardiner.

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.[21] 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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[21]

View of the Expressway, west of downtown Toronto, from the pedestrian overpass at the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue. (2004)

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.[24]

In the late 1980s, Metro Toronto proposed to widen the Gardiner to eight lanes from Strachan Avenue to the Humber, and extend Front Street from Bathurst Street west to connect with the highway.[25] 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.[26]

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 elevated section between the Don River and Leslie Street, intended for connection to the cancelled Scarborough Expressway, was eventually demolished in 2001. Demolition was first proposed in 1990 by the Crombie Commission and the Lake Shore-Gardiner 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 St., but only $34 million to tear it down.[27] The final cost of the demolition was $39 million.[28] Eastbound traffic now exits to a newly constructed off-ramp that connects with Lake Shore Blvd. East, just west of Carlaw Avenue. In the wake of the eastern demolition, Lake Shore Boulevard East has been revealed from the cover of the highway. Green boulevards have been implemented along the wide thoroughfare. Paved bicycle paths extend eastward for approximately two kilometres from the Martin Goodman Trail at Cherry Street to Coxwell Avenue. A local artist created a commemorative piece for the demolished elevated expressway out of several of its giant supportive concrete pillars.

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.[29]

In this overhead view from the CN Tower, the Gardiner Expressway runs from the lower right to the top centre. The Air Canada Centre is in the centre of the image.


Crumbling elevated section

The elevated section 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.[30]

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.[31] 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 late afternoon, 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.[32]

Demolition proposals

The eastern most section of the Gardiner that is slated to be demolished

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).[33]

In 2004, the TWRC issued a report to the City about possible options for the Gardiner.[34] 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 Lake Shore Boulevard roadway underneath the elevated section and construct buildings at a cost of $65 million
  4. Removing the Gardiner east of Spadina, and expanding Lake Shore Boulevard at a cost of $758 million. This was the TWRC's recommended option.

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 median
  • replace 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 landscaped median
  • relocate Don River channel and re-build new ramps onto the Don Valley Parkway with surface roadway (Lake Shore Blvd)

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."[34] Suburban councillors Gloria Lindsay Luby and Doug Holyday came out opposed while inner-city councillor Kyle Rae fought for the proposal.[35] Mayor David Miller did not favour the proposal either, stating that there were other, higher priorities.[34] 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 and the construction of the Front Street Extension. Waterfront Toronto proposed to get started on the environmental assessment of the demolition, which is expected to take up to five years and cost $10 million.[36] Councillor Denzil Wong criticized the proposal, pointing out that the city already had a $300 million backlog of road repairs.[36] 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.[36] In July 2008 City Council voted to proceed with the environmental assessment.[37] In March 2009, Waterfront Toronto started the environmental assessment consultation process, with open houses and an online consultation web site.[38]

Replacement proposals

Several skyscraper buildings in background with elevated highway passing in front
View of Gardiner Expressway at York Street looking north.

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
  6. the Don River[32]

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

Unsolicited proposals are made regularly by citizens, agencies and corporations of Toronto.

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.[40]

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.[41]

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 (4.3 mi) stretch of the expressway, entitled the 'Green Ribbon'. The estimated cost was between $500 million to $800 million (CAD).[42][43][44]


A list of neighbourhoods along the Gardiner from east to west:

Elevated section design

The elevated section is supported by steel-reinforced concrete columns. The roadway itself was constructed on top of concrete slabs supported by steel girders. The height of the elevated section is higher than required to cross city streets and provide clearance underneath. The intent of this was to reduce traffic noise at ground level. The highest point of the elevated section is the eastbound ramp from the Gardiner to the Don Valley Parkway which goes up and over the westbound lanes, then drops to ground level.

From east of the Exhibition Place streetcar loop and just west of Strachan Avenue, the space below the elevated sections of the highway was enclosed for use as storage space. Bricked sections with windows can be seen when driving along Manitoba Drive or taking the streetcar in or out of Exhibition Place.

Bridges, underpasses and overpasses

Former QEW segment

Subsequent to the 1998 amalgamation of the Metro municipalities into a single Toronto government, the stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Way between Highway 427 and the Humber River was downloaded from the provincial Ministry of Transportation to the new City of Toronto and was redesignated as part of the Gardiner.

Due to its status as a former Ontario 400-Series Highway, and because of its more recent design (rebuilt in the late 1960s), this section was built to more recent standards than the Metro-constructed Gardiner. A system of collector and express lanes serves Kipling Avenue and Islington Avenue and this segment has a speed limit of 100 km/h rather than 90 km/h.

The former QEW was not upgraded to modern standards when it was downloaded to the city, with particular concern over the old steel guardrail median.[45] Portions of the guardrail was replaced by a concrete barrier in early 2007. High mast lighting has also been installed on parts of the this section, more commonly used on provincial highways. The lights are different from the 400-series highways and the same as the ones used on the Don Valley Parkway.

Portions of the former QEW had parallel service roads along the roadway:

  • Oxford Street - southside from east of Horner Avenue to Grand Avenue (broken sections)
  • Mendota Road - north side from east of Royal York Road to Grand Avenue
  • Queen Elizabeth Boulevard - north side from east of Islington Avenue to west of Royal York Road
  • Fordhouse Boulevard - north side from east of The East Mall to Wickman Road
  • Brockhouse Road - south side from east of The East Mall

Lane configurations from east to west

Section Travel Lanes
Don Valley Parkway and Lake Shore Boulevard ramps Two lanes in each direction
Don Valley Parkway/Lake Shore Boulevard - Parliament St Four lanes in each direction
Parliament St - Jarvis St Three lanes eastbound - Four lanes westbound
Parliament St - Jarvis St Three lanes eastbound - Two lanes westbound
Yonge St - Humber River Three lanes in each direction
Humber River - Park Lawn Three lanes eastbound - four lanes westbound
Park Lawn - Kipling Five lanes in each direction (three express, two collectors)
Kipling - Highway 427 Five lanes in each direction (merged)

Exit list

Exits were numbered from west to east on the former Queen Elizabeth Way section.

Old # Destinations Notes
QEWHamilton Continuation beyond Hwy 427
139 Hwy 427 to Hwy 401Pearson Airport
139 Brown's Line, Sherway Gardens Road Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
141 Kipling Avenue
142 Islington Avenue Was signed as exits 142A (south) and 142B (north)
144 Park Lawn Road Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
145 Hwy 2 (Lake Shore Boulevard) Hwy 2 no longer exists, but remains on signs
South Kingsway Westbound exit and eastbound entrance
Jameson Avenue, Lake Shore Boulevard, Dunn Avenue
Spadina Avenue, Lake Shore Boulevard
York Street, Bay Street, Yonge Street Former Hwy 11 (Yonge Street) and Hwy 11A (York Street)
Jarvis Street, Sherbourne Street
Don Valley Parkway Eastbound exit and westbound entrance
Hwy 2 (Lake Shore Boulevard) Eastbound exit and westbound entrance; Hwy 2 no longer exists, but remains on signs

Traffic volume

Traffic trips per 24-hour period, for the time period of 2002–2006[46]:

Location Eastbound Westbound
Kipling Ave 111,971 106,559
Royal York Rd 99,461 112,393
South Kingsway 85,958 92,995
Parkside Dr 86,058 93,112
Spadina Ave 65,601 65,481
Yonge Street 45,320 57,769
Sherbourne St 50,941 41,781
DVP 36,781 33,942

Call boxes

In 1965, 62 yellow 'call boxes', containing phones for emergency assistance, were installed by the Ontario Motor League, fixed to poles on the shoulders.[47] These remained in operation until the 1990s. In 1994, the RESCU traffic management system began operation on the Gardiner and Lake Shore Boulevard and stranded motorists became quickly detected by the CCTV cameras and operators quickly dispatch assistance.


The Gardiner, along with the Don Valley Parkway and Allen Road, were fitted with the distinct cobra-neck 30-foot (9.1 m) poles. They were first fitted with fluorescent tubes in the 1960s, which was changed to the orange low-pressure sodium (LPS) in 1978. (A 1960s experiment of installing lights on the elevated Gardiner's parapets was quickly shelved.) In the late 1990s, the low pressure sodium lighting was failing and most of the cobra-neck conventional poles were replaced in favour of shaded high-mast lighting, with high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS); however the elevated Gardiner still retained the LPS cobra-neck poles for seven more years. The last remaining LPS lamps, which were no longer being produced, were all replaced by HPS in early 2006.

Since the end of 2003, the conventional truss lighting poles that the province installed on the QEW segment in the late 1960s have been removed west of Kipling Avenue and east of Royal York Road, being replaced with shaded high-mast lighting like that used on the Don Valley Parkway.

See also


  • Duff, J. Clarence; Yates, Sarah (1985). Toronto Then & Now. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry & Whiteside. ISBN 0889029504. 
  • Margison, D. A. (1954). Proposed Lakeshore Expressway for Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto: Functional Report. Margison Babcock & Associates. 
  • Fulford, Robert (1995). "Fred Gardiner's Specialized City". Accidental City: The transformation of Toronto. Toronto, Ontario: Macfarlane Walter & Ross. 
  1. ^ Duff(1985), p. 119
  2. ^ "Board Seeks High-Speed Arteries". The Globe and Mail: p. 4. May 21, 1947. 
  3. ^ "$9,000,000 Super-Highways May Go To Vote on Jan. 1". Toronto Daily Star: p. 2. November 13, 1947. 
  4. ^ "Toss Back $9,500,000 Plan in Lively 11-Hour Session". Toronto Daily Star: p. 3. November 25, 1947. 
  5. ^ "Call Inglorious Retreat As Expressway Vote Off". Toronto Daily Star: p. 2. December 20, 1947. 
  6. ^ "$20,000,000 Lakeshore Expressway Gets Top Metro Planning Priority". The Globe and Mail: p. 1. July 8, 1953. 
  7. ^ Margison,Babcock(1954), p. 7
  8. ^ "Plans Completed of Inshore Route for Expressway". The Globe and Mail: p. 30. July 14, 1954. 
  9. ^ "Inland Expressway Extra Cost $11,000,000". The Globe and Mail: p. 1. July 20, 1954. 
  10. ^ "All Expressway Plans Now Ready for Sifting". The Globe and Mail: p. 11. October 2, 1954. 
  11. ^ "Start on 3rd Section of Expressway Urged". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. November 11, 1954. 
  12. ^ "Maybe Next Year". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. January 18, 1955. 
  13. ^ Haggart, Ronald (March 17, 1958). "Breached by Concrete". The Globe and Mail: p. 7. 
  14. ^ "Gardiner to Route His Expressway around Fort, Chairman Capitulates With Honor". The Globe and Mail: p. 29. March 27, 1958. 
  15. ^ "Plan Suggests Province Share In Moving Fort". The Globe and Mail: p. 9. January 15, 1959. 
  16. ^ "Frederick G. Gardiner $13,000,000 Super-Highway Opened Today By Premier Frost.". The Globe and Mail. 
  17. ^ "Glare Shield is Planned on Gardiner". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. March 3, 1965. 
  18. ^ "Expressway Proves That It Really Is". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. August 2, 1962. 
  19. ^ "Three Lanes of Expressway West From York Street Open on Monday". The Globe and Mail: p. 1. November 30, 1962. 
  20. ^ "Gardiner crush expected but police guard left idle". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. July 16, 1966. 
  21. ^ a b "Gardiner Expressway: Dreams and milestones ; Quick facts". Toronto Daily Star: p. B4. May 6, 2000. 
  22. ^ "Jameson ramp may stay closed during rush hours". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. June 11, 1966. 
  23. ^ "Accidents tripled by guardrails". The Globe and Mail: p. 9. October 18, 1966. 
  24. ^ Papoe, Bob (November 15, 1989). "Advertising blossoms along Gardiner embankment". Toronto Star: p. C1. 
  25. ^ Byers, John. "Tonks urged to improve Metro roads". Toronto Star: p. F8. 
  26. ^ Turnbull, Barbara (May 22, 1998). "Hump gets bumped". Toronto Star: p. 1. 
  27. ^ Power, Kathleen (September 28, 2006). "20 years of studying the Gardiner". Toronto Star: p. A6. 
  28. ^ Walls, Janice (December 19, 2000). "Demolition of Gardiner Expressway East under way". Daily Commercial News and Construction Record 73 (245): p. A1. 
  29. ^ "Transforming the Gardiner/Lakeshore Corridor". WATERFRONToronto. May 31, 2008. p. 5. 
  30. ^ Fulford(1995)
  31. ^ Marlow, Iain; Henry Stancu, Nicole Baute (May 10, 2009). "Tamil protest moves off Gardiner to Queen's Park". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 25, 2009. 
  32. ^ a b "Proposal to "Bury" the F.G. Gardiner Expressway Below Grade Between Dufferin Street and the Don River: Concept Review". City of Toronto. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  33. ^ "Waterfront Revitalization Chronology". City of Toronto. Retrieved 2009-03-10. 
  34. ^ a b c Nickle, David (September 28, 2006). "City releases its plans for the Gardiner". The Villager: p. 1. 
  35. ^ Lu, Vanessa (September 29, 2006). Toronto Star: p. B3. 
  36. ^ a b c Hanes, Allison (May 31, 2008). "Miller urges city to dismantle part of Gardiner; Easternmost Section; 'This proposal is a balancing of what's possible'". National Post: p. A16. 
  37. ^ "Waterfront Toronto to proceed with environmental assessment of partial removal of Gardiner Expressway". Canada NewsWire. July 15, 2008. 
  38. ^ "Gardiner Environmental Assessment and Integrated Urban Design Study". Waterfront Toronto. Retrieved 2009-04-08. 
  39. ^ Barber, John (July 19, 1996). "Private consortium eyes upgrade of Gardiner Widening, shift to toll road possible for Toronto's waterfront expressway". Toronto Star: p. A1. 
  40. ^ "Toronto Waterfront Viaduct". 2006. Retrieved 2009-03-17. 
  41. ^ "Unemployed CAD tech pushes progressive Gardiner replacement". Citypulse24. June 2, 2009. 
  42. ^ Lu, Vanessa (June 19, 2009). "Don't pull down Gardiner, green it up, architect says; New $500M upper deck would become a park". Toronto Star: p. GT1. 
  43. ^ "Saving the Gardiner, losing the ugly". National Post. December 3, 2009. 
  44. ^ "quadrangle architects: 'green ribbon' gardiner expressway toronto". Retrieved 2009-12-14. 
  45. ^ "Gardiner in desperate need of repair: engineer". CBC News. 2006-04-10. 
  46. ^ City of Toronto. "Average Weekday , 24 Hour Traffic Volume" (PDF). 
  47. ^ "Opening of Road Phones Ties Up Traffic An Hour". The Globe and Mail: p. 5. September 28, 6965. 

External links


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