TORONTO – A report on the possibility of tolls on the Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway is up for debate at city hall today.

Toronto city councillors met today at 9:30 a.m. for the first time since the fall session reconvened, with topics such as tolls and the tunnelling of the Gardiner up for debate.

Gardiner, DVP tolls

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The detailed report on possible road tolls was presented to the executive committee on Monday in an effort to offset funding, operating and maintenance costs for the Gardiner and DVP, which is seeing significant revitalization.

The report said the Gardiner currently sees approximately 164,00 vehicles each weekday from west of Spadina, 228,000 vehicles east of Highway 427 and 110,000 vehicles on the DVP north of Bayview Avenue.

“Tolling could be significantly expensive for people that use the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parkway,”said Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong.

“If it’s a one off then it may be affordable, but if you got to get to work and use the Gardiner Expressway or the Don Valley Parkway, that’s $6 a day.”

Tory said he doesn’t necessarily think tolls are fair for roads that have already been paid for.

“This report is being received today and will likely be sent back for more information,” he said.

“There is not proposal on the table today to impose tolls on any road, anywhere and I guess that’s where that stands as of today.”

One suggested toll would see a flat fee of $1.25 or a distance-based fee of 10 cents per kilometre for a 30-year period.

A more expensive recommendation would see a flat fee of $3.25 or a distance based fare of 35 cents per km to recover costs in a shorter period of time.

Any excess revenue would be used to cover other transportation alternatives such as transit.

It is estimated the cost to upgrade, operate and maintain both the DVP and Gardiner would cost $5.7 billion.

The report also said tolls would reduce vehicle emissions and cut commuter times by three to five minutes.

Tunnelling the Gardiner

Seen as an eyesore and barrier to the city’s waterfront, the possibility of removing and burying portions of the Gardiner has been a persistent debate.

A report before the executive committee recommends no further analysis of  tunnelling options for the Gardiner, saying the aging expressway requires immediate attention because its elevated decks continue to deteriorate and it will be deemed unserviceable beyond 2020.

Councillor Jim Karygiannis put forward the further exploration of a potential tunnel.

“We are trying to see if it would be feasible to build a tunnel at the same time we are looking to keep the Gardiner up and running for the next couple years,” said Karygiannis.

“A tunnel would be massively more expensive and it would take substantially longer,” added Minnan-Wong.

“The tunnel is so complicated, that we would just get the approvals and permits and environmental assessments in time [when] we’re actually cutting the ribbon on the new Gardiner expressway.”

The cost for tunnelling was estimated at $2.5 billion but the report said would exceed $10 billion and that “the opportunity to undertake a tunnel for all or portions of the Gardiner Expressway has passed.”

Cities like Boston and Seattle currently have tunnelled expressways.