Toronto mayoral candidate Olivia Chow announced her plan to tear down the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway to build a ground-level boulevard in its place on Tuesday to the disapproval of some of her challengers.

Chow announced her plan to ameliorate transit service for Scarborough’s residents with a platform, that includes a plan to replace the eastern portion of the Gardiner Expressway in favour of an at-grade boulevard from Cherry Street to the DVP, a plan that Chow says will save the city hundreds of millions of dollars.

Currently, the East Gardiner is an elevated expressway that cuts through the heart of downtown Toronto, and has been heavily scrutinized for its obstructive nature and high maintenance costs. Chow would instead replace the East Gardiner with a wide, ground level road that she says will open up 5.4 acres of land to develop housing on. 

True North reached out to the Chow campaign for more details on the proposal but did not hear back.

Opposition to Chow’s proposal to rebuild the East Gardiner has emerged from the crowded slate of candidates. 

Ward 19 Beaches-East York city councillor and mayoral candidate Brad Bradford released a statement slamming Chow’s proposal, accusing Chow of capitulating to the demands of NDP activists.

Bradford says that Chow’s plan to rebuild the East Gardiner would achieve the opposite result that the proposal seeks to fix. 

“Olivia is captured by the NDP activist agenda that is hellbent on ripping up the Gardiner,” says Bradford. 

“The last thing the people of Toronto want is for activists and opportunistic politicians at City Hill to reopen settled debates, trying to delay projects with new studies. It won’t address Toronto’s congestion and will only increase costs and make gridlock even worse.”

The plan to tear down the East Gardiner had been put to a vote during former mayor John Tory’s first term but was abandoned in favour of an alternative solution.

Mayoral candidate Anthony Furey also chimed in on Chow’s plan for the East Gardiner, accusing Chow of waging a “war on the car.”

“Olivia Chow’s plan to tear down the Gardiner will just make our commutes longer, and will gouge taxpayers for millions of dollars,” Furey said. 

“We all know this isn’t about creating more options for Scarborough, it’s about fewer options for drivers. If Olivia Chow had her way, downtown Toronto would be one giant bike lane.

Instead, Furey proposes that the city minimize disruptions for commuters and respect Toronto’s drivers and suburban residents. 

In response to Chow’s announcement, Toronto’s former deputy mayor and mayoral candidate Ana Bailão told True North that she wants the province of Ontario to pay for the Gardiner’s upkeep and alleviate the financial burden from the city of Toronto. She says that Toronto’s residents are forced to pay for the Gardiner – money that could be going towards the funding of core city services – despite the majority of residents not using the Gardiner on a daily basis.

“We pay to the tune of a quarter of a billion dollars every year for maintenance, upkeep and to operate these highways while core city services continue to deteriorate. None of the municipalities around us are expected to pay for highways, but Toronto taxpayers are,” Bailão told True North.

“I will make sure the Government of Ontario, not Toronto, takes responsibility for these Highways again, like they were until the 90s. Every cent we currently spend on these highways will be redirected to fixing services for our residents.” 

According to data from transportation analytic firm Inrix, Toronto suffers from the third most congested congested streets in North America with the average driver losing hundreds of hours in traffic.