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3 years of construction on the Gardiner starts next week — but it's not clear who'll pay for it

The Gardiner Expressway is 60 years old and needs to undergo extensive repairs. The latest round of work is set to start next week and last three years. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)
The Gardiner Expressway is 60 years old and needs to undergo extensive repairs. The latest round of work is set to start next week and last three years. (Evan Mitsui/CBC - image credit)

The Gardiner Expressway is set to undergo another round of repair work, marking the beginning of three years of new construction and traffic.

But it's not clear who will foot the roughly $300 million bill or how it will be split up — despite the deal brokered last fall by Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow and Ontario Premier Doug Ford that uploaded responsibility of the expressway from the city to the province.

"The conversations regarding the upload are underway," said Jodie Atkins, the city's director of bridges and expressways, at a news conference Tuesday. She said the contract has already been awarded by the city.

"Those details will be part of those discussions."

Replacing the bridge structure, repairing the structures underneath the expressway and adding a new traffic system between Dufferin Street and Strachan Avenue are part of the second phase of the city's six-part plan to save the aging highway.

Residents traveling to and from the city should expect some of these changes to kick in starting next week, with construction primarily scheduled to take place from Monday to Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.

The city said the following areas will be affected:

  • From March 25 to April 14, one lane will be closed for pre-construction work with intermittent overnight closures of a second lane if needed. During the eastbound lane closures, the eastbound on-ramp from Lake Shore Boulevard, east of Jameson Avenue, will also be closed.

  • From mid-April until mid-2027, the Gardiner will be reduced to two lanes in each direction between Dufferin Street and Strachan Avenue with intermittent additional lane closures as required. The eastbound on-ramp from Lake Shore Boulevard, east of Jameson Avenue, will also be closed.

However, the city said it plans to keep traffic flowing on specific days and events. All lanes will be open over the Easter weekend, March 29 to March 31, and on April 6 to April 8. Additionally, from May 2026 to July 2026, the Gardiner will be fully open to accommodate increased traffic expected during the FIFA World Cup.

Toronto city staff Roger Browne (left), Jodie Atkins (middle) and Jennifer Graham Harkness (right) announced the next round of lane closures on the Gardiner Expressway on Tuesday.
Toronto city staff Roger Browne (left), Jodie Atkins (middle) and Jennifer Graham Harkness (right) announced the next round of lane closures on the Gardiner Expressway on Tuesday.

Toronto city staff Roger Browne (left), Jodie Atkins (middle) and Jennifer Graham Harkness (right) announced the next round of lane closures on the Gardiner Expressway on Tuesday. (Claude Beaudoin/CBC)

"The Gardner Expressway, you know, is 60 years old and it's time for us to make these major repairs," said Jennifer Graham Harkness, the city's chief engineer and executive director of engineering and construction.

The city is unsure if this is the last major Gardiner project it will oversee, Harkness confirmed.

"We don't know what our next steps are," she said, adding the two sides are undergoing a "due diligence exercise."

"We're working to make sure that our contractor operates as efficiently and effectively as possible to get the work done."

City plans to manage traffic

Roger Browne, the city's director of traffic management, says roughly 200,000 cars flow through this section of the Gardiner, and that essentially a third of the road's capacity will be cut due to construction.

He said the city's plan to manage congestion includes traffic diversions, signage, traffic agents on site and real-time monitoring that will give the city data it can use to make changes to traffic signal timings.

It's already looking at modifying up to 60 traffic signals in the area to accommodate the changes in traffic patterns, such as at the eastbound Lake Shore Boulevard on-ramp at British Columbia Drive, he said.

In previous congestion plans, Browne said the city has even reached out to the private sector to "encourage" employers to give more flexible work hours or get employees to consider transit and other transportation options.

"Above all else, the key message is really just to try to plan accordingly your trips and, you know, pay attention in terms of the various stages of the construction and to try and use transit wherever possible," he said.

The city says preparatory work on this portion of the Gardiner began in November 2023. The first section of the rehabilitation project, from Jarvis to Cherry streets, was completed in 2021. The city budgeted roughly $2.2 billion for the total project, which it first approved nearly a decade ago.

Toronto drivers share doubts

Uber driver Ramanveer Singh said he drives 12 hours a day, mostly throughout the city's downtown. He said the construction will likely impact how much he drives and earns, as a result.

"It's not good for us," he said, adding he's also concerned about how the changes will affect driver safety.

Toronto drivers Graham Stewart (left), Ramanveer Singh (middle) and Noel Lim (right) say they aren't looking forward to the construction slated to start next week and last three years over a western part of the Gardiner Expressway.
Toronto drivers Graham Stewart (left), Ramanveer Singh (middle) and Noel Lim (right) say they aren't looking forward to the construction slated to start next week and last three years over a western part of the Gardiner Expressway.

Toronto drivers Graham Stewart, left, Ramanveer Singh, middle, and Noel Lim, right, say they aren't looking forward to the construction slated to start next week and last three years over a western part of the Gardiner Expressway. (Mirna Djukic/Radio-Canada)

Noel Lim said he travels west to Mississauga and Oakville often, and has already been trying to avoid closures, such as those on Adelaide Street W. He said people will likely take side streets or go on highways to avoid the construction, only to find traffic there has worsened, too.

"It'll be chaotic," he said. "Right now it's three lanes and it's still horrific, so imagine two."

Graham Stewart doubts the project will only take three years to finish.

"Probably longer, knowing Toronto construction," he said.