City engineers believe nearly half the elevated portion of the Gardiner Expressway is becoming structurally unstable and have asked for half a billion dollars to tear out problem sections and rebuild them over the next decade.
Of particular concern is the two-kilometre stretch east of Jarvis St., which will be unsafe to drive on in as little as six years if left as is, staff warn.
City staff has requested $505 million in capital funding to make the repairs. The work requires ripping out the road down to the steel girder frame and will have significant and prolonged traffic implications.
This latest revelation — that staff fears Toronto’s main commuter artery is on the verge of becoming unsafe — directly conflicts with what city hall officials have been preaching for months amidst the ongoing falling concrete controversy.
Hundreds of documents released to the Star through freedom of information reveal a communications strategy designed to convince the public that the cracking problem was purely superficial. This was being said at the same time staff was mapping out a plan to replace entire portions of deteriorating road.
A document of “key messages” that was routinely forwarded to top city staff before media interviews began: “The Gardiner is structurally sound. The falling pieces of concrete are concrete cover and do not affect the overall integrity of the structure.”
A staff report presented to the Public Works committee in early May said the same thing.
It now appears that was not the case.
John Kelly, Toronto’s acting director of design and construction, said Monday the structural integrity issue is not new.
“We do have structural concerns, which is why we recommended doing a replacement for certain structures of the deck (the elevated road),” he said. If the necessary repairs aren’t done in and around the six-year time frame, Kelly said “parts of the deck might become unusable. We wouldn’t allow vehicles to drive over parts of it potentially.”
Kelly said the section is in similar condition to a portion east of the Don River, which the city decided to demolish about 10 years ago. The only portion of the Gardiner that has been replaced since it was built about 60 years ago is a section between York and Jarvis Sts.
That work was done in the mid 1980s. Everything else is nearing the end of its life, he added.
City engineers would have pushed forward with the replacement years ago, said Kelly, had council in 2008 not voted to stop all non-urgent repairs on the Gardiner until after an environmental assessment was completed. That report was shelved about two years ago.
Gardiner Expressway becoming unstable, city documents reveal