Humber Bay Shores residents still haunted by the traffic havoc caused by recent construction on the Gardiner Expressway are now concerned a newly proposed road toll on the highway could mean a swift return to gridlock on their local streets.
The city’s road toll proposal, endorsed by Mayor John Tory on Nov. 24, would see motorists charged $2 every time they use the Gardiner Expressway or Don Valley Parkway – raising an estimated $200 million a year for much-needed road and transit infrastructure once in place.
Longtime Palace Place resident Robin Clay, however, said many of his neighbours fear the $2 levy could also drive toll-evading commuters off the Gardiner at Park Lawn – and right into the heart of their population-dense yet transit-starved waterfront condo community.
“Humber Bay Shores was the victim of traffic diversion several months ago when the Gardiner was undergoing construction and it was a nightmare. Even Marine Parade Drive, which is just meant for local traffic, was dangerous, quite frankly,” Clay, who serves as administrator of the Humber Bay Shores Discussion Group on Facebook, said of the chaos caused by motorists diverting off the Gardiner to avoid construction delays.
“The concern a lot of people have is that if we have tolls, we’re going to get these toll evaders coming down here again … So if the city does implement them, they have to find a way to minimize this traffic diversion to the local streets.”
Daniela Veljkovic, who lives just off Lake Shore Boulevard West on Brookers Lane near the Gardiner on/off ramp, said that while she doesn’t have a problem with the “pay-as-you-play” philosophy behind the proposed road tolls, she likewise thinks it could result in more rush-hour logjams for Humber Bay Shores area residents attempting to commute downtown via Lake Shore Boulevard.
“This neighbourhood has a bigger problem right now because we’re going through a condo expansion. Between now and 2020, we’re going to have significantly more traffic, but at the same time, nothing is being done to help with that,” she said, referencing the recent exclusion of Park Lawn from Metrolinx’s list of future GO station locations.
“I don’t mind tolls, but where it becomes problematic is that, for anybody that doesn’t want to pay, it’s too easy to get off the Gardiner at Park Lawn – and this particular neighbourhood already has significant traffic problems.”
While Clay suggested the city explore England’s example of setting levies on toll highway-adjacent side streets as a deterrent to toll evaders, Veljkovic said she’d like the city to move toward creating more viable transit options for Humber Bay Shores area residents.
According to Etobicoke-Lakeshore Councillor Mark Grimes, that latter point is, in fact, currently being studied as part of the city’s ongoing Park Lawn/Lake Shore Transportation Master Plan study. Presently in the midst of public consultations, the study was initiated nearly a year ago to “identify transportation improvements needed to support all road users” by studying a number of solutions, including: new connections and better access to roads, transit and pathways; and planning for investment in public transit, pedestrian and cycling networks, among others.
Road tolls, Grimes said, would have “significant impacts” on both the scope and the delivery of that master plan project.
“With anything that’s going to happen with road tolls, we are going to be hugely impacted in Humber Bay Shores and possibly even Mimico, so I want to make sure there are extensive studies and that they run concurrently with the Transportation Master Plan taking place in that area right now,” he said in an interview with The Etobicoke Guardian.
“How these tolls will affect people coming down through my community – that’s the number 1 thing we have to look at. We can’t have another gridlock situation down there like we had when the Gardiner was under construction.”
To those ends, Grimes wrote an open letter to Mayor Tory on Nov. 24, stating that while he supports revenue tools as a means to pay for transit, housing and sustainable infrastructure, when it comes to road tolls, he believes it’s critical to fully examine whether they will negatively impact the communities the city presently serves.
“Road tolls would only serve to incentivize commuters to travel along Lake Shore, at the expense of local residents who rely on this route every day. The addition of tolls would effectively prioritize out-of-area commuters over Etobicoke-Lakeshore residents,” Grimes’ letter reads.
“Given these pressing considerations, I respectfully ask that any in-depth study, report or investigation into the implementation of road tolls prioritizes and thoroughly investigates the short and long-term impacts on the Ward 6 community.”
Grimes told the Etobicoke Guardian on Monday that while he had not yet received a response from Tory, he looked forward to sitting down with the mayor for an in-depth discussion about the matter soon.