Gardiner Must Be Turning in His GraveSIGNS OF CHANGE: Construction crews, lane
closings and road signs make it clear times have
changed for the eastern extension of the Gardiner, the
big road built by `Big Daddy' Fred Gardiner, former
``You know, I used to lie in bed dreaming in
technicolor, thinking it was too big. Now I know it
isn't. Maybe in 20 years time they'll be cursing me
for making it too small. But I won't be around to
worry then. Right now, I've come up smelling of
Chanel No. 5.''
- ``Big Daddy'' Frederick Goldwin Gardiner, on his new
expressway, October, 1964
Big dream, big dust
`Big Daddy' Gardiner likely turning in his
By Jim Rankin
Toronto Star Staff Reporter
The first broken bones and fractured stones of
Frederick Goldwin Gardiner's dream skyway lie
strewn about on the earth. From above, through
gaping holes in the elevated bridge's skeleton of
steel, stream shafts of sunlight where none have
shone for nearly 40 years.
In technicolor, Big Daddy, and it smells like dust.
Indeed, the late Chairman of Metropolitan Toronto
who had an expressway named after himself may
well be spinning in his grave.
This week, Toronto began to seriously tinker with Gardiner's grand road,
first steps toward what could well be the complete bypass and demolition of the entire
elevated portion of the expressway.
Last weekend, construction crews began a year-and-a-half-long project to
city's biggest bridge at its eastern terminus by 1.3 kilometres.
This stretch is the long-orphaned beginning of what local politicians once
would be an expressway linking the Gardiner with Highway 401 in Scarborough. That
plan died in the '70s. It was just too expensive. The Gardiner had already cost $113
million (that's 1966 dollars).
Just five years ago, it was decided no more money would be put into maintaining
1.3-kilometre orphaned section. Again, cost was the problem.
Once a symbol of progress, pride and, at times, the subject of far-out
prominent architect once argued the Gardiner could be covered to double as an
aircraft landing strip), the entire expressway is now thought of by many as an
eyesore, a physical reminder of poor city planning, of urban decay and the love of the
automobile - one of Toronto's mistakes by the lake.
``I've made my mistakes. When I see them I
swear - and I never show anyone else where
they are. But I wouldn't change anything
about this road.''
- Gardiner in October, 1964, after returning to private
``You know, things change,'' shrugs David Crichton, the city's man in charge
undoing the eastern end of the mistake. ``It is a different day.''
Crichton, a manager of design and construction for the city, and George
city engineer who is on-site overseeing the demolition and construction, are standing
on the doomed section of the Gardiner, just east of the area where the new ramps will
Tractor-trailers whiz by on the two lanes still open on either side of
the middle lanes,
which are being prepared for the new ramps.
The big bridge shakes something fierce with each passing truck.
The movement doesn't bother the two city men, nor does it rattle the dozens
construction workers toiling away immediately to the west.
to be ready for vehicles by November. Then demolition will begin on the Gardiner eastThe first stage of the project is off to a quick start. It calls for a two-lane on-off ramp
of the raised highway, including some of its distinctive concrete supports
and giant steel girders, will be left behind - as art.
``Public art,'' pipes Rozanski. ``I don't know. You tell me.''
By next fall, the construction and demolition work should be done. In 2002,
greening phase of the project will be complete. Yes, things will actually be growing
where the drab section of highway once stood.
For now, as any motorist who travels regularly along and below the eastern
route will tell you, it looks downright eerie.
Below the skyway, just east of the Don Valley Parkway exit, Lake Shore
Blvd. is an
apocalyptic mess of tonnes of concrete chunks and severed, twisted re-bar, the steel
rods used to reinforce the concrete deck of the highway.
The bombed-out look to the place makes Angelo Grassa of Grascan Construction
smile. In just two days, his company, which has the contract to administer the
shortening of the expressway, has done what they thought would take 21 days. The
area to be incorporated into the new ramps has already been stripped of the old
concrete and rusting steel reinforcing ribs.
``We're pretty happy about that,'' says Grassa, raising his voice to compete
construction equipment rumbling away below the Gardiner.
For the next eight months, workers will be rehabilitating the short segment
skyway just east of the Don Valley Parkway. There, existing supports and beams will
be used to tie into the new ramps, and form the new eastern end of the Gardiner.
The rest of the stretch, which extends to Leslie St. and, according to
composed of 60,000 tonnes of concrete, 8,000 tonnes of steel and about three tonnes
of aluminum, will be painstakingly demolished.
More than 90 per cent of the material will be recycled. Dismantling the
makes recycling easier, Grassa says. The crushed concrete will likely end up beneath
the new tree-lined boulevard that will replace the stretch.
``People think you can just implode it or just sort of knock it down like
a pile of sticks.
You have to really take it apart like a puzzle, almost like the way you built it, to do it
efficiently and economically,'' says Grassa.
Carefully dismantling the Gardiner is also not as noisy as a typical demolition
And noise is one of the prime concerns, since the section borders Toronto's film and
sound studio district, says the city's site engineer, Rozanski.
Over the past week, hydraulic excavators were brought in to chip away at
Gardiner's deck. These are not quiet machines, but an informal test suggested
acoustic blankets and moveable sound walls near the Gardiner may keep the studios
happy when the major demolition work begins.
This section of the Gardiner is often used by film and television crews
to simulate Los
Angeles' elevated freeways. It looks very similar, and is just as dirty.
``Right now, it's an L.A. freeway - looks just like Hollywood,'' grins
Rozanski. ``Now it
will turn into Hollywood North. We'll be one better than what they have in L.A. . . . it's
going to be park-like.''
With his public life behind him, Frederick Gardiner slipped into a car
on a fall day in
1964 to tour his expressway, which by then had just reached its link with the Don
Valley Parkway. It had been 20 years since he first started pushing and planning for
Construction crews were making final touches to the link as Gardiner's
the barricades. As he often did, he slipped past the barricades to survey the work.
Gardiner, then 69 and back practising law, was clearly enjoying the moment.
``I get in before they see me and then they chase me,'' he joked with a
along for the ride. ``Sure they recognize me when they catch up. I'm the face on the
barroom floor - everyone knows it. I tell them I'm just a young man from the country
trying to get along.''
By then, arthritis had made it difficult for Gardiner to get around. He
stepped out of
the car and took a walk on his highway, with the help of a cane.
``You've got a great city there, you know,'' he told the reporter. ``It's
on the way and
you can't stop it now.''
No, Big Daddy, you can't.
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