Commuters rejoice, the new Gardiner exit ramp is open

Drivers on the eastbound lanes of the Gardiner Expressway can breathe a sigh of relief — the replacement for the York/Bay/Yonge exit ramp is open.

Mayor John Tory made the official announcement at a news conference Sunday, standing with city engineering and transportation staff on the pavement of the three-lane ramp that exits at Simcoe St. onto the eastbound lanes of Harbour St.

“I do want to express a very particular thanks to city staff,” said Tory, “some of who are represented here today, and the contractor, and all the team that worked for that contractor, because they have done a great job of getting this project done on time.

“And you’ll recall if you look back that we said this would be the time when the new ramp would be open.”

The $30-million project came in not only on-time but on-budget, two points the mayor made during the news conference after enduring months of widespread criticism from drivers, who complained about congestion, as well as from nearby condo residents who had to endure noisy construction, some of it overnight.

“I could make a joke and say that I should not go to the news conferences announcing the demolition of a ramp and only show up at the opening of the new one,” said Tory, “because the degree to which your popularity is affected by one as opposed to the other – the last one I was afraid there was going to be an angry mob chasing me out of town.”

Contractors worked from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. most days, extending the work until 11 p.m. some days and even overnight on some weekends since the project began last April. The longer hours were due to Tory’s pledge to speed up construction.

Drivers will now exit onto Harbour St., which has been widened from three to four lanes, and either go straight or turn south at Lower Simcoe St. At York and Bay Sts., drivers will be able to turn left or right.

Streetscaping and a multi-use trail along Harbour St. have yet to be finished, held up by the discovery during construction that at some point cement had been dumped into a sewer. It had to be removed before the sewer could be replaced. The streetscaping and trail work are expected to begin this spring.

The removal of the old ramp, which had an exit spiraling onto York St. that Tory liked to call the “Hot Wheels” ramp, has left room for a new park on Queens Quay but it’s still in the design phase.

The new ramp has a built-in anti-icing technology, which is a first for the city.

A weather station pole on the south side of the ramp – which measures conditions such as wind speed, humidity and precipitation – and a temperature sensor in the road will provide data to a computerized system that can predict when the pavement will freeze. When that happens, an anti-icing solution will be sent out by 22 nozzles positioned on each side of the ramp.

The system was first installed by the Ministry of Transportation on a bridge from Hwy. 401 to Hwy. 416 near Prescott in 2000. The technology is now used in nine locations throughout the province.

Major work on the Gardiner Expressway east of Cherry St. will begin this year when the deck is removed and replaced with pre-fabricated sections. Tory said that it’s impossible to hold off any longer on replacing outdated infrastructure.

But he says they city learned early on during the ramp project that there has to be a balance between getting the work done and disrupting the lives of residents.

“We ultimately found the right balance here and we will continue to do so going forward.”

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