UPDATE: Outside Firm Calls Gardiner Expressway A Hazard
It turns out that the Gardiner Expressway may present a "significant hazard to public safety."
Those are the findings of an outside engineering group that was hired by the City. IBI Group came to that conclusion after examining the underside and the sides of the Gardiner Expressway. The major hazard, being those falling chunks of concrete.
IBI found three sections of the Gardiner that to be in "poor condition", and that's just one above the very worst classification of "very poor." Those sections were not identified as problem areas by city's engineers when they conducted visual inspections of the highway.
The Star found out about this through a freedom of information request, but the interim report was released in early September. It found that there were about half a dozen reports of chunks of concrete (some as large as a baseball) falling from the Gardiner between the months of May and July. Some of those incidents were never even made public.
It also states that it's impossible to guarantee that there won't be more incidents of falling concrete in the future, even if more precautions and safety measures are taken.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who is also the chair of public works chair says the committee is hoping increase the amount of capital spending on the Gardiner from $15-million to $35-million.
The report makes a number of recommendations, including utilizing different methods of examining the highway, putting up netting underneath, and blocking off areas accessed by pedestrians.
"If there's a place where either cars or pedestrians could be at risk we will take immediate action to protect that area," says Minnan-Wong.
High-tech inspections and the installation of netting won't be immediate, as Minnan-Wong says going ahead with those recommendations would be up to city staff and council.
"We're going to take those recommendations very seriously."
Two councillors Friday suggested that the way to pay for the growing cost of repairs could be road rolls on the Gardiner.
Adam Vaughan (who supported tolling existing lanes) and Doug Ford (who wanted to see additional toll lanes added) were both on the same page.
"Ottawa and Queen's Park should be fixing a highway which supports the national and provincial economies and plays a critical role in generating the wealth for those governments," he says. "If they're more interested in fishing with the mayor than helping out in Toronto, than the only option we have is to go to the users of the road."
The Gardiner Expressway was built in the 50's and 60's and engineers say just because this is a very obviously example of infrastructure that needs work, doesn't mean we should worry about the state of other bridges, roads, or overpasses across the province
"Worried? I wouldn't say worried," says President of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada John Gamble. "We need to be concerned. It's something that cannot be ignored and something that we're going to have to deal with."
He says governments have taken action to address infrastructure concerns, which is a good sign. It's when repairs are neglected that creates issues.
U of T Civil Engineering Professor Doug Hooten says the aging Gardiner Expressway brings up similar infrastructure issues across North America, if attention is paid to what's been built, there shouldn't be a risk.
"When things start to fail they give you some warning. It doesn't collapse immediately. We don't like to build structures that collapse with warning."
(With files from Russ Courtney)