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York-Bay-Yonge ramp demolition will equal traffic chaos for downtown Toronto

Starting April 17, work will be done to tear down the ramp, widen Harbour St. and construct a new ramp eastbound off the Gardiner that will end at Lower Simcoe St.

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It’s been a while since I let loose with a really good rant on these pages, so here goes.

My dander has been up since it was announced, and it increases day-by-day, as the date of April 17 draws nearer. The demolition of the York-Bay-Yonge ramp from the Gardiner Expressway, which is to start that day, is going to create a downtown traffic nightmare unlike any we have ever seen in this city.

In addition to taking down that ramp forever, which currently funnels Gardiner traffic in three directions — east to Yonge St. and north on Bay and York streets — they are going to widen Harbour St. eastbound at the same time, which means it will be down to two lanes during the construction period.

Oh, joy.

The whole project — the teardown of the three-way ramp, the widening of Harbour and the construction of a new ramp eastbound off the Gardiner that will end at Lower Simcoe St. — is estimated to take eight months, and everything is expected to be finished and wrapped up with a big, red bow on it by January 2018.

If I was a bookmaker, I would take bets against that happening.

Now, I am not against renovating this particular ramp. As Mayor John Tory said (and he sure shows up at every possible photo-op these days, doesn’t he?), it’s 50 years old and not in the best of shape. But renovating/repairing a vital link to downtown is a far cry from demolishing it, and the city has opted for the latter, and the reasons for doing that are bogus, at best.

Also Read: LETTERS: Pros and cons to Gardiner traffic

Said the mayor (a paraphrase): The expansion will give pedestrians and cyclists better access to the waterfront. And I say (direct quote): What are you talking about?

For years and years, I have been hearing the Gardiner-car-hating crowd going on about how the Expressway cuts off access to the waterfront. I thought — silly me — that all you had to do to get down to the lake was either walk or ride your bike underneath the Gardiner. If anything cuts off access to the waterfront, I would suggest (in order): Lake Shore Blvd., Queens Quay, condominiums, hotels, sugar refineries, and office buildings as being the culprits. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how the Gardiner impedes anything or anybody, so far as going down and enjoying the waterfront is concerned.

But the mayor says this will provide better access, and he’s the mayor, and I’m not.

Now, as usual, it’s car drivers who are being made to suffer. Construction will be restricted to 7 a.m. till 7 p.m., so as not to disturb the residents of condominiums in the area. So tens of thousands of commuters, who keep the economy of the city of Toronto — particularly the downtown — humming along will be inconvenienced yet again so that a couple of thousand condo dwellers can get their sleep.

Now, those folks either bought or are renting those condos so they can live right downtown where the action is — action being noise and bright lights. They made a choice to live down there, and the fact that the city could cut the construction time for this project in half by having this work done 24 hours a day instead of 12, to accommodate these people who essentially asked for noise in the first place, is appalling. You want peace and quiet? Don’t live next to an expressway. I mean, some of them are so close to that highway you can tell the colour of their underwear as you drive past. And they’re going to be upset by a little noise?

They’re young, they’re hip, and the vast majority are either single or couples. They don’t even get home till 2 a.m. And construction will be cut off at 7 p.m. so as not to disturb them? Please.

Oh, and we haven’t even broached the subject of work on weekends. The city says only that some intersections will be closed on some weekends for work to be done, but chances are this project will mostly be a five-day-a-week, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. job. Which means that — just as happened the last time the Gardiner was repaired — the city is going to have to cough up extra cash and go to seven days a week or else this won’t be finished till a year from next January.

The city says it wants drivers to use other eastbound routes south of Queen St. during the construction period and says it will be adjusting traffic signal timing to help with congestion. Two observations:

∙ Why did it take this potential nightmare to trigger an adjustment to traffic signals to make driving a car in the downtown easier? By saying things like that, it makes one wonder if the city has left the lights out of sequence on purpose, doesn’t it?

Also read: Here’s an easy solution to daily backup on the Gardiner

∙ The first eastbound street you encounter driving north from the construction zone (Blue Jays Way doesn’t count) is Front St., and it’s two-way and congested already, particularly around Union Station. The next street up is Wellington, which is one-way westbound — the wrong way. Then you come to King St., which is so clogged now that serious discussions are taking place to ban cars from some sections of it entirely. Adelaide is one-way eastbound — hooray — and then you have Richmond going westbound (wrong way, again) and, finally, Queen, which — like King — is already jam-packed. Throw in the bicycle riders with the street cars, buses and thousands of exasperated motorists and — well — watch out.

(Why not do something really radical? Just for those eight months, change the direction of Wellington to make it one-way eastbound. This is force majeur, so be decisive. Otherwise, it will be an unholy mess.)

During construction, drivers will have to exit the eastbound Gardiner at the Spadina and Jarvis St. ramps. Arrangements have been made for people using the Spadina ramp to access eastbound Lake Shore Blvd., which has been a no-no for 50 years. But that won’t do much good anyway, because Lake Shore is already bumper-to-bumper during the morning rush and it will quickly narrow to two lanes, making it even more imperative to do something bold (see bracketed paragraph above).

Tory says there will be disruptions and that he doesn’t want to sugar-coat anything.

When this announcement was made, the city issued photographs to show what some areas look like now and what they’ll look like after the work is completed in 2018. The “now” photos are dark and foreboding, with no people around and that dastardly Gardiner ramp cutting off the sunlight.

The one purporting to show what things will be like in 2018 shows the sun shining and happy couples walking along hand-in-hand.

Everything is beautiful.

Yup, you sure wouldn’t want to sugarcoat anything, would you, Mr. Mayor?

York-Bay-Yonge now

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