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City council votes in favour of hybrid option for east Gardiner Expressway

Last Updated Jun 11, 2015 at 11:30 pm EST


City council has voted 24-21 in favour of the hybrid option for the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway.

Council voted 19-26 against the option to tear down the portion and replace it with an eight-lane boulevard.

Council voted 28-17 to receive a report back on funding options for a possible Gardiner tunnel.

Mayor John Tory scored an important, but narrow, political victory after council voted 24-21 in favour of the hybrid option he championed for the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway.

Earlier, councillors voted 19-26 against tearing down the 2.4-kilometre portion of the crumbling expressway and converting it into an eight-lane boulevard.

“This was a vote to keep congestion under control and to ensure our residents can get to work and home to their families in a reasonable time,” Tory told reporters after the vote.

The hybrid option would mostly maintain the elevated roadway for a 1.7-kilometre stretch and reroute the highway between Jarvis Street and the Don Valley Parkway.

Leading up to the crucial vote, Tory had been touting the $900-million hybrid option, saying it would result in a better economy and shorten travel time for commuters. A staff report showed tearing it down would be the cheapest option at a cost of just over $400 million.

“It was a vote to create jobs and opportunity by opening waterfront lands to development and it was a vote that I believe puts the people of this city first,” he said.

But the mayor came perilously close to losing the vote after four members of his inner-circle went against him and the hybrid option.

Councillors Thompson, McMahon, Bailao and Ainslie — all members of the mayor’s executive committee — ended up casting a NO vote.

“At the end of the day this is a democracy,” a seemingly unfazed Tory said.

Coun. Pam McConnell thought the vote was too close to inspire much confidence in the plan.

“You can’t win by two or three votes and expect that the city will move forward,” she said.

Coun. Mike Layton was equally unimpressed with the outcome.

“We are not going to get this opportunity in my lifetime,” he said. “This is a long-term decision that we just made and unfortunately I think we made the wrong one.”

The mayor admitted it was a difficult vote, but said he was proud of how council conducted itself.

“I think what we showed is that as a council we can have a debate on a long held emotional issue, it can be thoughtful, that it can be respectful and it can be informed,” he said.

Council also voted 28-17 to receive a report back on funding options for a Gardiner tunnel.

When it came time to vote for a third option — leaving the east Gardiner as is, councillor and former mayor Rob Ford was the lone vote in favour.

He derided council for backing Tory’s hybrid option, saying it was hastily done.

“This is done too quickly, on the back of a napkin,” Ford, who is still recovering from cancer surgery, said. “I just don’t like the rush rush, taxpayers don’t like the rush rush.”