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'Reckless' rebuild: Attempt to halt Gardiner construction stalled at city hall

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A Toronto committee shelved an attempt to re-open the contentious debate over the future of the eastern Gardiner Expressway Monday, after city staff revealed that nearly half of the project’s billion-dollar budget had already been spent.

“When anyone makes an enormous mistake, you don’t just keep making more mistakes on top of it, that’s stupidity,” Councillor Josh Matlow told CTV News Toronto. “That’s reckless.”

Matlow had pushed for updated cost estimates on the pricey project in hopes of convincing his councillor colleagues to reconsider tearing down the elevated eastern portion of the Gardiner, and build a surface-level boulevard there instead.

An at-grade road could allow for the construction of thousands of new housing units and save the city millions of dollars that could be re-directed toward other capital needs, he argued.

Council rejected demolishing the 1.7-km stretch of crumbling expressway in 2015, and in 2016 selected a “hybrid” rebuild model that involved re-aligning it farther north east of Jarvis Street.

City staff told the infrastructure and environment committee Monday that $148 million of the project’s budget had already been committed to contracts, while $403 million had already been spent on construction.

Combined, those figures constitute 45 per cent of the eastern expressway’s $1.2-billion budget.

“I think that council is tired of reopening debates and moving back and forth, and we’ve seen that there is a very large amount of money that has already been spent,” Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who is functioning as acting mayor, said Monday.

$650 million remains to be spent on the project, staff said.

“The whole world will laugh at Toronto in a very sad and shameful way if we become the only city in the globe that builds an elevated expressway along our waterfront today,” Matlow said. 

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