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'The Gardiner debate is over': Elevated expressway won't be torn down under Ford

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Toronto City Hall is saying good riddance to the Gardiner — on the heels of a fiscal deal that will see the province assume responsibility for the aging expressway.

Ontario's Transportation Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria confirmed Tuesday that the government will maintain the elevated eastern portion of the route, which Mayor Olivia Chow had hoped to convert to a surface-level boulevard.

"Absolutely, we would be building that part of the Gardiner," Sarkaria told CTV Toronto Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the premier posted on X, formerly Twitter, "Some people want to tear down the Gardiner Expressway. That would be a disaster for GTA drivers already stuck in bumper to bumper traffic."

"Our new deal with Toronto will save the Gardiner Expressway."

Chow happily hands over the crumbling highway with Queen's Park to assume full capital and operating expenses once the process is complete. Toronto city staff were still assessing the final dollar figure Tuesday, but officials project the savings to the city will be in the billions.

"One reason why I wanted to take down that [elevated] piece was to save money because it was very expensive to rebuild it," Chow said Tuesday.

Council approved the so-called hybrid realignment of the eastern Gardiner in 2016, a decision challenged numerous times since by councillors decrying the cost of rebuilding the eastern leg above grade.

The City has already shelled out more than $500 million in sunk costs on the approved version of the plan. However, the full rebuild is set to start in 2026.

"I was happy with the EA that was approved," Infrastructure Committee Chair Jennifer McKelvie said.

"It's important that when we make a plan, we stick with it. We get on with it. That's what I've always called on, and I'm happy that the premier sees that way, too."

Sarkaria said the province would use the three-year due diligence period to assess whether there should be any additional changes to the expressway.

"We'll review what other improvements can be made to it and take it on a case-by-case basis. But it's our intention, as one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure in our province, to make it the best possible," he said.

"The Gardiner debate is over, it's shut down," political analyst Scott Reid said Tuesday. "It's not going to be torn down. It's not going to be rebuilt, refashioned, redesigned."

"It's going to be there with us for decades to come." 

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