Ah, the good ol’ Monty Python segway – works every time.
No, I’m not vering from my Toronto centric blog (because I’m sure the thousands of readers subscribed to this blog [note the sarcasm] are scared this post is about something other than Toronto) … I’m merely setting up what this post is about, the job of any good title to an article, is it not?
Torontonians know that the Gardiner Expressway, that strip of raised roadway, that physical and psychological barrier to the, what sounds like it should be the Emerald City – aka the Waterfront, has been one of the biggest debates in the last decade amongst politicians, urban planners, suburbanites and citizens of the City of Toronto.
What, oh what are we to do with this concrete thing?
Well, finally after much demand, the report on what we should do with the Gardiner was released during the mayoral race. Mayor Miller said it wasn’t ready to be released to the public, but everyone wanted to know … so we finally got to see what has been “officially” recommended to the City. The four plans for the Gardiner are all interesting (except for the one that recommends keeping it up). Personally, I say tear it down. I think it’s a hindrance more than anything. I think we could do much more interesting things with the space it currently occupies – the Grand Boulevard idea with the commercial shopping and street life sounds like a great idea to me. However, of all the plans that have been officially put forth to the City in this report, there is one that I think would be far more innovative, less costly and would be something completely different.
Behold the Toronto Waterfront Viaduct. Without me paraphrasing what this project is, here is what is posted on the website:
This proposal is based on a cable-stayed viaduct running above the existing lake shore rail corridor. Since these railway tracks are not going to be removed from their current location, due to their major transportation role for downtown Toronto, the right-of-way that they occupy seems to be the obvious choice to improve transporation capacity, while removing the elevated expressway.
The Viaduct is an unusual plan. Who would think to put a suspended bridge running through the middle of a downtown core?
Jose Gutierrez certainly did. Gutierrez is a graduate of Seneca College’s Civil Engineering program where he dreamt up this project for his final project. Spacing Wire has an excellent interview by Ian Malczewski with Gutierrez about his vision and reasoning behind the Viaduct approach.
But if you think about, the plan is actually quite brilliant. By combining the need for a speedy and reliable east-west public transit line to relieve the traffic on the 501 Queen Street car, along with an 8-10 lane expressway, coupled with a beautiful garden-enclosed walkway which would stretch the entire length of the bridge allowing citizens to walk, bike, blade in any weather the length of downtown … and with the possibility of building apartments/condos into each of the A-frame towers, which aligns itself well with the City’s plan for a more dense downtown core to stop the spread of the urban sprawl … well, quite frankly, I think we’ve got a winner on our hands, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, keep in mind, I’m not an urban planner – didn’t go to school for it, don’t know the first thing about architecture (except for what I like, what I don’t, what ionic and doric columns are and the fact that I would live in any building that has exposed brick walls … well, almost any building) … but I think this is a pretty damn good idea.
What I really like about this plan, other than the skyPath, which I personally think is brilliant and would be envied the world around, is that according to Gutierrez, the project would cost very little next to the plans adopted by the official report and would not cause traffic mayhem during construction. It also, and this is what really got me excited about this project, would open up all the land currently used by the Gardiner for commerical or residential, park or other waterfront related development and would utilize the stretches of land that currently are taken up by the train tracks. It didn’t even occur to me that these tracks are in fact the barrier between downtown Toronto and its waterfront.
The skyline would be changed forever, and what a magnificent change it would be. Imagine being on the island and gazing out across the harbour and feasting your eyes on an architectural wonder! I bet you anything that tourists from around the world would come to see something like this … and what better way to drive into the hear of a city than on a suspended bridge flanked by massive futuristic pillars welcoming you to this innovative and risk-taking city.
I’ve written to my city councillor and others about the plan to hear what they think of the proposal … but alas, there was no response. I would like to state, right here, right now, that I dare Mayor Miller, the councillors of this city, and in fact, the citizens who live here, to think way outside the box just for a moment and see the potential for this city. The Toronto Waterfront Viaduct is one of those proposals that I hope isn’t just another dream by a citizen of this City that never sees at least some discussion about it. This proposal needs to have some life given to it.
Let’s show the world what we’re really made of!
(Cue dramatic music score)