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'Like a parking lot': Toronto's Gardiner Expressway now down to 2 lanes in each direction for 3 years

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A 700-metre stretch of the Gardiner Expressway in downtown Toronto is now running on two lanes in each direction for the foreseeable future and some drivers are already expecting traffic to get worse.

“It's going to be chaos,” Nellie Carol, who lives at the Harbourfront, told CTV News Toronto.

One westbound lane from Dufferin Street and Strachan Avenue was closed on Sunday in addition to the one eastbound lane that was closed last week. The closures are part of a rehabilitation project for the 60-year-old highway, which is expected to last until mid-2027.

Even before Sunday’s closure, Carol said traffic in the area was bad due to the lane reduction in the eastbound lanes.

“When I was travelling westbound…I could see the traffic [eastbound] was backed up all the way from Yonge Street all the way back to the [Highway] 427. It was like a parking lot,” she said.

Mary Ann Torres says her commute from Park Lawn Road in Etobicoke to Strachan Avenue more than doubled to 45 minutes last week and says she may need to get a new job if the traffic continues.

“Public transportation or alternative routes (Lakeshore, Queensway) are also affected,” she told CTV News Toronto. “I wish the city had a better plan that comprehensively addresses the need to fix the infrastructure and mitigates the impact.”

Another commuter, named Lauren, told CTV News Toronto that her drive from south Etobicoke to midtown Toronto is two times longer than it used to be after the first lane closure in the eastbound lanes.

Vehicles makes their way into and out of downtown Toronto along the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto on Thursday, November 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

“From 35-40 to 70-80 minutes, three days a week,” she said in an email last week. “Lakeshore, Gardiner and routes through the city are all a mess, and Google Maps/Waze quotes for travel duration have become completely unreliable. I understand that the work needs to be completed, but why during such critical times of day?”

Crews will work from Monday to Saturday between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. to complete the $300-million project, which involves replacing concrete deck and girders, rehabilitating the associated substructure and installing new street lighting.

At times, the city has said, there will be “intermittent” overnight closures of a second east or westbound lane. The eastbound on-ramp from Lake Shore Boulevard east of Jameson Avenue is also closed.

The city says it will carry out a congestion management plan on the stretch of affected highway, which sees roughly 200,000 vehicles pass through daily.

City staff said the highway will reopen briefly during the 2026 FIFA World Cup when the city is set to host a handful of games. 

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