Gardiner Expressway

Gardiner Expressway

Infobox road
highway_name = Gardiner Expressway

alternate_name = Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway

length =
direction = East/West [,+Etobicoke,+Toronto,+Ontario+M8W,+Canada&daddr=Lake+Shore+Blvd+E+%26+Gardiner+Expy+Toronto,+ON&mrcr=0&mra=pe&sll=43.631602,-79.447632&sspn=0.104367,0.233459&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1 Map]
starting_terminus = Toronto, Ontario
ending_terminus = Toronto, Ontario
cities = Toronto, Ontario
established = 1955 - completed

right|thumb|300px|View_of_the_Gardiner_Expressway,_west_of_downtown_Toronto,_from_the_pedestrian_overpass_at_the_foot_of_Roncesvalles_Avenue_and_Along_the_Humber Bay of Lake Ontario. The road in the bottom right-hand corner is Lake Shore Boulevard (2004).] The Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway, known locally as "the Gardiner", is an expressway connecting downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada with its western suburbs. Running in close proximity to the shore of Lake Ontario, it now extends from the junction of Highway 427 and the Queen Elizabeth Way in the west to the foot of the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) in the east, just past the mouth of the Don River. East of Dufferin Street, the roadway is elevated, running above Lake Shore Boulevard east of Bathurst Street. The only major east-west route leading into the city core, the Gardiner has nonetheless been the subject of controversy, with repeated calls from some citizens and politicians to demolish it or move it underground.

The Gardiner Expressway, along with the Don Valley Parkway and the Allen Road (the short completed section of the truncated Spadina Expressway), form the municipal expressway system in Toronto. These are the expressways which are owned and operated by the City of Toronto. The remainder of the highways operating within the city's boundaries—Highways 401, 427, 400, 409, 404, and the Queen Elizabeth Way—are 400-Series Highways, which are owned and operated by the Ministry of Transportation.

It is named for the first chair of the now-defunct Metro Council, Frederick G. Gardiner, who championed the project and was responsible for the building of the Don Valley Parkway.


The Gardiner Expressway was one of the first projects undertaken by the newly formed government of Metro Toronto. Plans for the highway, first named the Lakeshore Expressway were first developed in 1943, prior to the formation of Metro Toronto.

Construction on the expressway began in 1955. The Gardiner was built in segments, with the final section being completed in 1966. The price tag was approximately $110 million Canadian or approximately $700 million in 2006 dollars.


* Highway 427 to the Humber River was opened as part of the Queen Elizabeth Way in 1940, and transferred to the Gardiner in about 1998.
* Humber River to Jameson Avenue was completed in 1958.
* Jameson Avenue to York Street was completed in 1962.
* York Street to the Don Valley Parkway was completed in 1964.
* Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street was completed in 1966 and demolished in 2001.

Route Construction

The route of the Expressway, from a planning point of view was problematic and controversial. It necessitated the paving over of parkland, demolition of a popular amusement park, residential demolition and a long elevated section to get through the downtown area.

The original route of the Expressway called for the demolition of historic Fort York. Community groups fought hard and eventually won to save the fort over the wishes of Mr. Gardiner. The freeway was re-routed to the south of the grounds and this happens to also be the highest point of the elevated section.

The route of the Expressway around Humber Bay necessitated the demolition of the Sunnyside Amusement Park on the lakeshore, which had existed since 1925. Some amusements were moved to the CNE, others sold off or just destroyed. The carousel was moved to the newly built Disneyland. In that area, Lake Shore Boulevard was also expanded to a six-lane road and The Queensway was built. Only the Sunnyside Pool and Palais Royale hall now exist from that time period. A pedestrian bridge crossing was built from the foot of Roncesvalles Avenue to the Palais Royale site.

A residential neighbourhood was demolished at the foot of Jameson Avenue, to the west of the CNE. The building of the interchange for Jameson Avenue created a barrier to the lakeshore, necessitating a pedestrian bridge over Lakeshore Boulevard. Subsequent efforts by local residents to have the expressway utilize a tunnel in that area have not come to fruition. The building of the expressway in that area has led directly to a decline in the Parkdale neighbourhood, causing a concrete jungle along Jameson Avenue, where previously there had been mansions.

East of Fort York, the Gardiner was built through a predominantly industrial area, to the south of railway lands to get to the downtown. This section is entirely elevated. The area around this elevated section has changed greatly from industrial to residential and commercial as land values have increased. The railway lands have been largely redeveloped, with industrial use much reduced.

Elevated Section Design

The Gardiner is elevated just east of the Dufferin Street behind the Canadian National Exhibition and slops down to grade just east of the Don Valley Parkway/Don Roadway/Don River (Toronto). Elevated sections from the DVP to Bouchette Street were demolished.

The elevated section is constructed higher than required to cross city streets since it was found that such a design would take the traffic noise away from ground level.

One section, at approximately Strachan Avenue, is significantly wider. This was intended to eventually connect with a Highway 400 extension from the north, which has never materialized.

Bridges, Underpasses and Overpasses

* Evans Avenue - overpass
* Browns Line - underpass
* East Mall - underpass
* Wickman Road - underpass
* Kipling Avenue - overpass
* Islington Avenue - overpass
* Royal York Road - overpass
* Grand Avenue - overpass
* Mimico Creek - bridge
* Park Lane Road - underpass
* CN tracks - underpass
* Humber River (Toronto) - bridges
* Windemere Avenue - underpass
* Ellis Avenue - underpass
* Colborne Lodge Drive - underpass
* Parkside Drive - underpass
* Roncesvalles Avenue - pedestrian bridge
* Dowling Avenue - overpass
* Lakeshore Boulevard West (westbound) - overpass
* Jameson Avenue - overpass
* Lakeshore Boulevard West (westbound) - overpass
* Dufferin Street - bridge

torage Space

From east of the CNE streetcar loop and just west of Strachan Avenue, the space below the elevated sections of the Expressway were enclosed for use by the City of Toronto and CNE as storage space. Bricked sections with windows can be seen when driving along Manitoba Drive or taking the streetcar in or out of the CNE grounds.

carborough Expressway extension

East of the Don River, an elevated section was built to Leslie Street. This was to be part of a planned expressway through the Beach district of the City at the time and the eastern suburb of Scarborough, to eventually connect with Highway 401 via Highway 2A. This highway, known as the Scarborough Expressway was never completed due to public opposition.

The built elevated section was demolished in 2001 due to the high maintenance costs associated with the elevated roadway. The only remnant kept were some of the pillars just west of Leslie that were turned into a public art project. Eastbound traffic now exits to a newly constructed offramp that connects with Lakeshore Blvd. East, just west of Carlaw Avenue.

ervice Roads

Portions of the former QEW had parallel service roads along the roadway:

* Oxford Street - southside from east of Horner Avenue to Grand Avenue (broken sections)
* Mendota Road - north side from east of Royal York Road to Grand Avenue
* Queen Elizabeth Boulevard - north side from east of Islington Avenue to west of Royal York Road
* Fordhouse Boulevard - north side from east of The East Mall to Wickman Road
* Brockhouse Road - south side from east of The East Mall

Municipal downloading

Subsequent to the 1998 amalgamation of the Metro municipalities into a single Toronto government, the stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Way between Highway 427 and the Humber River was downloaded from the provincial Ministry of Transportation to the new City of Toronto and was redesignated as part of the Gardiner.

Due to its status as a former Ontario 400-Series Highway, and because of its more recent design (rebuilt in the late 1960s), this section was built to higher standards than the Metro-constructed Gardiner. A system of collector and express lanes serve Kipling Avenue and Islington Avenue and this segment has a speed limit of 100 km/h rather than 90 km/h.

Since the end of 2003, the conventional truss lighting poles that the province installed in the late 1960s have been removed west of Kipling Avenue and east of Royal York Road, being replaced with shaded high-mast lighting like that used on the Don Valley Parkway.

The former QEW was not upgraded to modern standards when it was downloaded to the city, with particular concern over the old steel guardrail median. [ [] ] Portions of the guardrail was replaced by a concrete barrier in early 2007. [ [] ]


The Gardiner, along with the Don Valley Parkway and Allen Road, were fitted with the distinct cobra-neck 30 foot poles. They were first fitted with fluorescent tubes in the 1960s, which was changed to the orange low-pressure sodium (LPS) in 1978. (A 1960s experiment of installing lights on the elevated Gardiner's parapets was quickly shelved.) In the late 1990s, most of the cobra-neck conventional poles were replaced in favour of shaded high-mast lighting, with high-pressure sodium lamps (HPS); however the elevated Gardiner still retained the LPS cobra-neck poles for seven more years. The remaining LPS lamps, which were no longer being produced, were entirely replaced by HPS in early 2006.

The old Gardiner and Lakeshore bridges over the Humber River, which had been in service since 1954, were removed and replaced by new structures in 1999. The old bridge pillars had sunken slightly, giving the eastbound Gardiner a roller-coasted ride or "Humber hump".

The elevated section in downtown Toronto was closed down for extensive repairs in the late 1990s; parallel roads such as Lake Shore Boulevard and Front Street were extensively congested until the Gardiner reopened.

In the wake of the eastern demolition, Lake Shore Boulevard East has been revealed from the cover of the highway. Green boulevards have been implemented along the wide thoroughfare. Paved bicycle paths extend eastward for approximately two kilometres from the Martin Goodman Trail at Cherry Street to Coxwell Avenue. A local artist has created a commemorative piece for the demolished elevated expressway out of several of its giant supportive concrete pillars. However, critics pointed out that the demolition cost was underestimated and it ended up costing as much as the alternative repair solution. As a result, there was a lack of funds to beautify Lake Shore East.

Even though the suburban population and the number of jobs in the city core have grown significantly, the capacity of the Gardiner has not increased since it opened in the 1960s and no alternate routes to the Gardiner have been constructed. Historical traffic and transit data indicate that TTC ridership entering downtown have remained relatively stable or declined since the 1980s while car ownership has continued to climb. GO Transit ridership has grown but it failed to relieve the congestion problem, particularly for suburban residents commuting to jobs downtown. As a result, the Gardiner is one of the busiest freeways in the Toronto area, along with the Don Valley Parkway.

As one of the few express routes for motor traffic into the downtown core, the Gardiner is regarded by many as essential to the city's economy, in wake of stiff competition from lower business-tax neighbours like Peel Region and York Region which have more extensive provincial freeway networks. Nonetheless, the elevated section's presence remains one of the more contentious urban planning issues in Toronto. Critics of the expressway have long decried its appearance, referring to it as "The Mistake by the Lake", and have argued that it cuts off the city from its waterfront.

Ending up, city council voted to have the elevated section extensively rehabilitated. Supporters of the elevated Gardiner point out that its design (in particular being constructed higher than required to cross city streets) keeps traffic noise away from ground level. They also note that even if it were removed, the waterfront view would still be obstructed by railroad tracks whose central portion is raised upon a high embankment. In addition, there is growing concern about the new condos, many of which have sprung up in formerly empty land since 2000 and obscure the waterfront.

On Friday, May 30, 2008, mayor David Miller commissioned an $11 million study to see if the section between the Don Valley Parkway and Jarvis Street could be demolished, and Lakeshore boulevard widened to accommodate the extra traffic. Miller argued that it was necessary to encourage development of the Waterfront. Critics noted that the demolition could range from $200-300 million CAD, while the city already had a $300 million backlog of road repairs.

Communities along the Gardiner

The Gardiner travels along the lakefront and pass many communities along the way. The sections from Evans Avenue to Grand Avenue is a mix of residential homes and industrial sites. Some motels/hotels and condos are found along sections east to Ellis Avenue. A parkway like setting is found east of Ellis Avenue to the CNE. The north side section from Roncesvalle to Dufferin Street is residential. From Dufferin Street to Bathurst the Expressway is flanked by industry on the north and the CNE on the south side. East of Strachan to the Yonge Street is a wall of condos and offices of both sides of the Gardiner. East of Yonge to the eastern end is sight of disappearing industrial blight of old Toronto.

A list of communities along the Gardiner:

* Studio District
* Port of Toronto
* Distillery District
* Harbourfront
* Parkdale, Toronto
* High Park
* New Toronto
* Alderwood
* Stonegate-Queensway
* Long Branch, Toronto
* Islington-City Centre West
* Mimico
* Roncesvalles, Toronto
* Niagara, Toronto or Trinity Spadina
* CityPlace, Toronto
* St. Lawrence, Toronto
* Liberty Village
* West Don Lands
* Swansea, Toronto

Alternative Proposals

One proposal in favour of maintaining the elevated section suggested beautifying the land below the Gardiner.

In recent decades, several proposals have been made to dismantle it or replace its central section with a tunnel. One recent tunnel proposal was part of a wide-ranging report presented by the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Task Force in 1999. Lack of municipal funds and political will have repeatedly stalled such plans. The demolition of the elevated Gardiner was estimated at $750 million. The tunnel proposal would leave the downtown without an east-west express for several years. It would not only cost $2-3 billion but also require a toll for several years to help recoup the costs and it has drawn unfavorable comparisons to Boston's Big Dig, which has been plagued by cost overruns and post-construction problems. All dismantling projects require the $245 million Front Street extension as a prerequisite.

On September 27, 2006 the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation issued a new plan to demolish a portion of the Gardiner. It involved removing the Gardiner east of Spadina, and expanding Lake Shore Boulevard. The expansion of Lake Shore Boulevard would make it 10 lanes wide and it would have a large landscaped median, similar to University Avenue. However, mayor David Miller stated promptly that there was no money for the plan.An overview of the planned changes to the Gardiner as proposed by the Task Force in 2006:

* retain elevated portions from west of Dufferin Street to Spadina Avenue
* add new on/off ramps to connect with Front Street extension
* replace elevated portion from Spadina Avenue to Simcoe Street with 2 five lane roadway (Lakeshore Blvd) separated by landscaped median
* replace elevated portion from Simcoe Street to Jarvis Street with 2 five lane roadway (Lakeshore Blvd) separated by city block
* replace elevated portion from Jarvis Street to Don River with 2 four lane roadway (Lakeshore Blvd) separated by landscaped median
* relocate Don River channel and re-build new ramps onto the Don Valley Parkway with surface roadway (Lakeshore Blvd)

Replacing the elevated Gardiner with an expanded arterial has met with heavy opposition. The combined capacity of the existing Gardiner and Lakeshore is twelve lanes, while the new proposal would have reduced it to ten. The need for traffic lights would also cause more congestion. Others point out that the ten lane boulevard is less pedestrian friendly to cross, as one could simply walk under the elevated Gardiner.

A different proposal, named the [ Toronto Waterfront Viaduct] , calls for the replacement of the existing elevated expressway with an 8 to 10-lane cable-stayed viaduct over the Lakeshore rail corridor. This proposal resuscitates the original idea of building the freeway over this rail corridor, but also combining it with a new Lakeshore light rail transit system, and lanes for bicycle and pedestrian traffic. The advantage of the viaduct is that its construction is by cantilever, minimizing disruption of the railroad. Also, by building the replacement route on a parallel corridor, this means that current traffic will not be disrupted.

Objects falling onto the Gardiner Expressway

Ice from the CN Tower

On March 5, 2007, a section of the Gardiner Expressway was closed between Spadina Avenue and Jarvis Street due to the threat of ice about the size of a kitchen table falling from the CN tower. Several days before, a storm with snow and freezing rain had caused a great deal of ice to accrete on the tower. As the weather warmed and the sun heated the tower's concrete, large pieces of ice began falling off the tower and falling hundreds of metres to the ground below. Although nobody was injured, the Gardiner was closed as a precautionary measure. On March 6, cooler weather reduced the risk of falling ice, and prevailing wind conditions had changed reducing the risks of ice falling onto the highway; the road was reopened subsequently.

Concrete from the Kipling Avenue bridge

On May 3, 2007 at around 7:00 a.m., a chunk of concrete about the size of a loaf of bread fell from the Kipling Avenue bridge onto the Gardiner Expressway. It missed cars and caused no damage, bouncing harmlessly away despite the morning rush hour traffic. City crews were quickly sent to close off lanes of traffic to begin an inspection of the structure, which is a late 1960s post-tensioned design built by the province while it was still part of the QEW. This incident raised fears about safety of the highway, particularly with memories of the recent overpass collapse in Laval, Quebec, still fresh in the minds of motorists and media.

Lane configurations from East to West

Call boxes

Call boxes (for emergency assistance for stranded motorists) fixed to poles on the shoulders were removed along the Gardiner, as was the case on the Don Valley Parkway. In 1994, the RESCU traffic management system began operation on the Gardiner and Lake Shore Boulevard and stranded motorists became quickly detected by the CCTV cameras and operators quickly dispatch assistance.


*Fulford, Robert. "Fred Gardiner's Specialized City", in Accidental City: The transformation of Toronto (1995). Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross.

ee also

* Municipal expressways in Toronto
* Allen Road
* Don Valley Parkway

External links

* [ Photos of the Gardiner East demolition] from the [ City of Toronto Archives]
* [ - The Toronto Waterfront Viaduct proposal to replace the Gardiner Expressway.]
* [ Missing Links, A Complete History Of Toronto's Controversial Expressway System]
* [ City of Toronto RESCU Traffic Cameras] (also includes traffic cameras for the Don Valley Parkway and Lake Shore Boulevard)
* [ Technical Briefing report of the future of the Gardiner Expressway by] [ TWRC] , [ Simplified Version]
* [,+Etobicoke,+Toronto,+Ontario+M8W,+Canada&daddr=Lake+Shore+Blvd+E+%26+Gardiner+Expy+Toronto,+ON&mrcr=0&mra=pe&sll=43.631602,-79.447632&sspn=0.104367,0.233459&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1 Google Maps of Gardiner Expressway]

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