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Toronto city council endorses highway tolls, still needs provincial approval

Last Updated Dec 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm EST

Vehicles make their way into and out of downtown Toronto along the Gardiner Expressway in an undated file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – Toronto is one step closer to imposing road tolls on two major commuter highways after city council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the project.

Councillors voted 32-9 Tuesday night to ask the province for the right to impose the levy on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway.

They also voted to ask city staff to look into how to implement the tolls.

Speaking after the vote, Toronto Mayor John Tory said the tolls will help him fulfil his election promises to tackle transit and gridlock.

The mayor said that while some may be opposed to tolls, the city needs money to fund transit and infrastructure projects and he will not support the alternative — steep increases on property taxes.

Ontario’s Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca says the province is aware of the city’s decision but is waiting to see a detailed plan on the proposed tolls.

Tory and four other Canadian mayors have argued that cities should have more control over revenue streams such as tolls, instead of needing approval from other levels of government.

The mayor also said he believes Toronto residents will embrace the plan in the long run.

“I’m proud to stand up and say to the people of Toronto that I came to office, developed a plan to build transit and fix traffic and how to pay for it, that I was honest about it, that I led on it,” he said.

“I think the people of Toronto will respect and support that and will want to move forward.”

Tory announced his proposal last month, arguing tolls have been shown to ease congestion and would help share the financial burden between all motorists who use the highways.

He said the measures would raise hundreds of millions of dollars, to be placed in a separate fund earmarked for transit expansion and road repairs and audited annually.