Keesmaat says she'll tear down eastern portion of Gardiner and save taxpayers $500 million

It's an idea that Torontonians are not entirely unfamiliar with - tearing down the crumbling eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway and replacing it with a grand boulevard. 

In fact, it was one of the options discussed by city council in the early days of Mayor John Tory's first term, although council ultimately decided on a hybrid option to tear that part of the Expressway down and rebuild it. 

On Sunday - standing underneath the eastern end of the concrete roadway - mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat said if she is elected, the expressway above her will all come down. 

"We can unlock a significant amount of land by tearing down this portion of the Gardiner Expressway," Keesmaat told reporters. "We can build new communities with new jobs, and retail, and employment and affordable housing - places for people to live - by unlocking this land and instead replacing it with a grand boulevard."

Keesmaat said it's becoming common all over the world for cities to take down elevated expressways and replace them with more livable communities, and she believes Tory's decision to spend $1 billion on tearing down and then replacing that portion of the Gardiner is "fiscally reckless, but represents bad land use, bad design, and a bad deal," according to a campaign release sent out during her news conference.  

"This plan costs $500 million less than the current plan that Mr. Tory is proposing," she said, adding "this kind of a structure is really a relic of the past."

Keesmaat explained that the plan has been costed out in previous work by the city of Toronto leading up to June 2015, and as a result, the detailed costing already exists.

But at Apple Fest in midtown, Tory said he's not impressed. 

"There was a decision made by an overwhelming margin [that] we should move forward with [the hybrid plan and] not go backwards, and that the risk of what she's now putting forward on the flip-flop is something that will be very damaging to neighbourhoods in the downtown part of the city," he told reporters.  

Tory also expressed concern about the implications of undoing a decision, such as having to owe damage payments. He told reporters some contracts have already been led, even though work to demolish and rebuild that section of the Gardiner has not begun yet.