Last week, Toronto mayoral candidate Rocco Rossi proposed building a new freeway into the heart of the city, by extending the Allen Road via a tunnel southward into the core. This has immediately reignited the decades-old Spadina Expressway debate. That was when the pre-amalgamation Metro Council planned to construct an inner ring of expressways through the region, against the wishes of the old City of Toronto and borough of York. In what has become the definitive Toronto example of the people fighting back against politicians, the residents of the affected areas launched campaigns and legal challenges against the project, until the Progressive Conservative government of Bill Davis withdrew provincial support, effectively killing the freeway. The partially completed Spadina was renamed Allen Road, and runs as a collector stub south of highway 401, ending abruptly at Eglinton Ave. Davis’ last act as Premier was to grant the city a one-metre strip of land on the south side of Eglinton, so no regional government could force completion of the freeway through downtown.
Today, the Allen delivers a freeway load of traffic onto urban streets not designed for it, causing major congestion on Eglinton and other local side streets.
I agree with Rossi that this is a bad situation, and that something needs to be done about it. However, Rossi’s plan to complete the Spadina into downtown via a tunnel will just result in more cars on already jammed downtown streets, and there will still be freeway loads of traffic in midtown neighbourhoods. This is a gain for nobody, and will just cause more congestion across the city.
Instead, I propose we tear out the Allen altogether, leaving only the ramps to Yorkdale Mall and the stub connecting to Dufferin to the north of the 401, and bury the rest of the subway to the south. By removing the incomplete expressway, the onramp bottlenecks on Eglinton and Lawrence will disappear. With the subway back underground, the land on top can be used for new development. New homes, new businesses, who knows?
The traffic that uses the Allen now will have to find another route, or maybe even use public transit instead. But the neighbourhoods at the foot of the Allen will be free from the congestion, noise and pollution from all of that traffic. The east-west thoroughfares Eglinton and Lawrence will be free from the freeway traffic, so local residents can move more freely. I believe those are much better goals.