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Index for my Toronto Budget 2004 project
Toronto Star Calls for Front Street Extension
29/03/2004

Right-wing bloggers certainly complain enough about the Toronto Star, but they aren't the only ones. Warren Kinsella regularly bashes some of their columnists, and Paul Wells recently joined in to brilliantly take down a Traversty of a column. (He was thankfully above punning, however.)

Although I find it to be an irreplacable source of local news, and although it does have some good columnists, I've certianly had my reasons to complain about the Toronto Star. Rabid support for Toronto amalgamation was the big one that had me cancel my subscription, but they have continually backed bonehead ideas.

Today, however, when I read a headline from yesterday's Star editorial section, I thought I was in for a positive surprise. It read "Extending Front must be cut back". I was hoping that this would be a call to cancel, or radically amend the Front Street Extension. The first few paragraphs had me thinking I was right:

Toronto's Front Street Extension is simply too colourless a name. A more fitting moniker for this outrageously expensive two-kilometre street would be the Golden Mile. And we mean that in a bad way.

As currently planned, the road is simply too expensive. The price? A total of $255 million. But the road might well be worth building if plans were scaled down and costs pulled from the stratosphere. To that end, Toronto city councillors and residents lobbying for this route need to take a gulp of financial realism and opt for compromise.

Toronto is facing the worst budget crisis in its history with a shortfall in excess of $300 million. However, officials seem determined to push Front Street westward, with the costs being divided between the city, Ottawa and Queen's Park. To put that $255 million figure in perspective, it is higher than GO Transit's planned operating budget for the entire year.

However, in the end, the Toronto Star did come out in favour of the Front Street Extension. Worse than that, they advocated building it with the $50-million savings that could be enjoyed if the original roadway plan is revived. I.e., if the new Front Street flies over the railway tracks (between Bathurst and Strachan) as a Gardiner-esque elevated highway.

I say that the Front Street Extension would then be still too expensive, and the Toronto Star's "improvement" would make the thing much more damaging to our city. There are many, many better things we could spend our money on.

What bothers me most is the hard sell that the extension's advocates are laying on. A week ago in the Globe and Mail:

Deputy mayor Joe Pantalone, the city's chief advocate for a roadway that would wind through his Trinity-Spadina ward, is livid over the mixed signals from Ottawa.

"Either the federal government believes in the waterfront and believes in a partnership with the other two levels of government or they don't," snaps Mr. Pantalone. "One is beginning to question whether they believe in it."

Waterfront? Please! To try to tie this in with the waterfront revitalization is entirely bogus now that everyone has given up pretending that this is the first step in dismantling or burying the Gardiner. This is just a road extension. A very, very expensive one that we don't need and can't afford.


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