Saying the car is here to stay, mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi is proposing extending Allen Road south to the Gardiner Expressway by digging a tunnel.

"Forty years of social engineering by city hall has not changed that," he said Monday at a news conference with Allen Road in the background.

The project would use "the latest in tunnel-boring technology, much of it developed right here in the GTA," Rossi said.

The tunnel would also have a bicycle lane, he said.

Such a tunnel would be at least six kilometres long. In a news release, Rossi said the cost could be as little as $105 million per kilometre.

"For opponents who say it can't be done, I say it can," Rossi said.

The Allen currently runs from Wilson Heights over Highway 401 to Eglinton Avenue West.

The only major arterial north-south roadway leading directly to downtown is the Don Valley Parkway.

In the 1960s and very early 1970s, public opposition led to the cancellation of the Spadina Expressway, which would have provided a surface route to downtown for vehicles. However, it would have destroyed ravines and neighbourhoods.

The completed section is today's Allen Road. Rossi said its abrupt end spills congestion into surrounding neighbourhoods.

Rossi said unfortunately, the expressway was stopped at the same time that governments stopped expanding rapid transit.

"The result is the worst commute times in North America," he said, adding this is costing Toronto billions in economic activity and jobs.

"All big cities rely on a mix of ways to get around," he said, adding the traffic planners of the 1960s had it "half-right."

Rossi said his "Transit City Plus" plan would offer the following:

  • more subways, including a crosstown Eglinton subway line
  • streetcars would be kept downtown
  • bus rapid transit would be extended into under-served neighbourhoods

A costing on the plan would be coming "soon," he said, adding the tunnel would be a public-private partnership.

He allowed that tolls might help fund the roadway.

Construction would begin by the end of his first term, Rossi said.

Toronto's municipal election takes place on Oct. 25.

Opponents react

Depty Mayor Joe Pantalone (Ward 19, Trinity-Spadina) said of Rossi's plan: "Talk about moving back 80 years. We all know that the way you move people is by high-speed transit."

George Smitherman, the former provincial cabinet minister seeking the mayor's job, said, "I had to check my calendar and make sure it wasn't April 1. It seemed like an April Fool's Day announcement."

Such a project would likely cost tens of billions of dollars, Smitherman said, without elaborating.

Publisher Sarah Thomson said one has to look at the costs versus the benefits. "Right now, we need a line to the airport," she said.

Coun. Rob Ford (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) asked who would pay for the project.

"A, it doesn't make sense. B, I don't know where he's getting the money from."

Ford guessed such a project would drive up everyone's property taxes by 20 per cent.

On Monday, the Toronto Board of Trade asked all candidates to provide more detailed and comprehensive information on their platforms.

During a Monday evening debate, some candidates joined Pantalone's attack on using diesel trains to move passengers between Union Station and Pearson International Airport.

With reports from CTV Toronto's Dana Levenson and Natalie Johnston