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Metropolitan Toronto Column: Don Route, Too Good, Perhaps Too Cheap

page 7, by Ronald Haggart

Sometime, ‘long about 1965, the Agincourt commuter will be able to drive to the department store intersection of downtown Toronto in 28 minutes.

It now takes, according to the traffic engineers, 45 minutes, and according to the schedules of Gray Coach Lines, 45 to 46 minutes.

The Don Mills suburbanite, if he can pull himself away from the diversions recently chronicled by Mr. Lloyd Percival, will whisk to the mundane corner of Queen and Yonge in 18 minutes instead of 32.

And the taxpayer in that motorists’ purgatory of central Scarboro will make it from Warden and Eglinton in 24 minutes instead of 31.

The reason will be the Don Valley Parkway, a six-lane superhighway which this month will finally get off paper and into the ground.

It will probably be the most road, in terms of service, for the least money — that the the taxpayers of Metropolitan Toronto will ever get.

For $28,000,000 it will lead the motorist from the mouth of the Don River up the east bank of the landscaped valley, under and over the few obstacles that stand in the way, to No. 401 Highway and, eventually, beyond that to a proposed Provincial highway that will be four lanes of controlled access road all the way from Steeles Avenue to Lake Simcoe.

And, if you will permit an iconoclastic word almost before the stars are out of my eyes, it will probably, from one point of view, be too good and too cheap.

It will undoubtedly be a great success and for $28,000,000 (which sum includes $3,000,000 for the extension of Bayview Avenue down the west bank of the Don) it’s a kind of bargain that would make Honest Ed sleepless in the mornings.

It will be such a bargain because Toronto is incredibly fortunate in having an undeveloped river valley which its political leaders have in the past been too lacklustre to exploit, and which happens by modern standards to be an almost ideal superhighway route.

The Don Valley was allowed to become merely (Chairman Frederick Gardiner said it, I didn’t) “a place to murder little boys”.

And because, of course, the valley land already runs underneath many of the existing obstacles like railway lines and other roads[,] the fantastic cost of many overpasses will be avoided.

This is one of the most impressive facts of the Parkway: it will pass under the existing bridges at Queen, Dundas and Gerrard, the Prince Edward Viaduct and the Leaside bridge. Its Bloor St. ramps will fit nicely under the CPR trestle near the brick works.

If these few crossings had to be handled by the grade separations common on superhighways, their cost would exactly double the cost of the parkway.

The land needed for the parkway will be cheap, too. Fewer than 25 private properties face expropriation.

The engineers from Foundation of Canada and Frederick R. Harris of Canada who laid out the route deliberately chose land that was parkland — in official designation if not in actual use.

They reported three years ago: “The route is located on public lands where possible, thus minimizing the expropriation of private property. Greenbelt land has been used for right-of-way in preference to acreage which can be commercially developed…”

The problem is that the Don Valley Parkway will be so efficient at such a bargain price that it is almost bound to encourage among the political leaders of the area a philosophy that pictures expressways as THE answer and the only answer to traffic congestion.

Yet one of the great contributions of the government called Metro has been its two-pronged attack on traffic: subways and expressways. We have not yet become involved in the dog-chasing-its-tail race of building expressways that have destroyed and depreciated so much valuable tax-paying property in Detroit, that have actually wiped out valuable commuter parking lots in Boston, that have reached the extreme of building expressways on expressways in Los Angeles.

Metro, like some pills, has not one, but two active ingredients to fight the headaches of traffic. Both are needed.

The Don Valley Parkway will handle 5,240 cars an hour in each direction; the Yonge St. subway can handle 40,000 passengers an hour. Each has its own distinct function — that’s why there will be a 1,500-car parking lot on the Parkway just north of Bloor, handy to the new subway and downtown.

Metropolitan Toronto is getting a lot of road (it will serve half of North York and almost all of Scarboro) for a little money. But it will never be so lucky again. Expressways do not come cheaper by the dozen.