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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
The Front Street Extension is About to Die
27/02/2004

As I mentioned yesterday, John Honderich gave a poor defense of the Front Street Extension at the public forum I attended.

Well, the Front Street Extension is now front and centre in the news because Dennis Mills' waterfront review is expected to recommend dumping the plan.

He won't be the first to suggest this. A recent news article (that I can't find -- sorry) wrote about a recent committee vote on moving the Front Street Extension forward. Other than for champion Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone, support for the plan was rather luke-warm. There was also a sizeable opposition.

So, even before Mills came along, it was starting to look like this thing would not happen.

Part of the argument against it is cost. This is what Mills cites. From the Globe and Mail:

The city says the price tag went to $250-million from $170-million, but Mr. Mills said yesterday the two-kilometre road could cost $320-million.

That's $160,000 per metre. Geez, it's $160 per millimetre of road! We can't afford this!

The other knock against Front is that it is counter-strategic. It is not a regular street, but essentially a long off-ramp from the Gardiner into downtown. Is this what we need, or do we need more transit investment? (The proposed St. Clair LRT project is about one tenth the cost of this.)

Back to Honderich. During the Public Forum on Revitalizing Toronto, two questioners got up and asked about Front. John Honderich defended the expense this way: People who live in 905 have poor access to transit and must suffer through gridlock. If we build the Front Street Extension, it will allow these unfortunate suburbanites to get into our downtown more easily.

The questioners countered with comments about how much GO transit could be improved with this kind of cash. They also said that the Gardiner's bottleneck is at the Humber, so this would achieve little. I wondered if suburbanites should bear any responsibility for their own choices.

In the end, I was left feeling that Honderich's rationale was simply irrelevant. This project does very little to improve quality of life in Toronto, and may actually diminish it. It is very poor value for the money -- no matter what your goals are. However, easing the commute of 905ers who choose to drive by spending massive amounts of Toronto's property tax dollars is very, very low on my priorities.

I believe that the City was going to get around to postponing or killing this project before the end of the budget process. If Dennis Mills accelerates that, good for him!


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