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Apr 1, 2010, 7:36 PM
Should we preserve the Gardiner?

Mar 31 2010


Read More: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/yourcitymycity/article/788428--your-city-my-city-don-t-tear-down-gardiner

Entire Blog: http://thestar.blogs.com/yourcitymycity/2010/04/the-gardiner-expressway-lets-preserve-history-and-be-creative.html


Adam Zendel is a master’s student studying urban planning at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. Born and raised in Toronto, he has a passion for the city and the built environment. His areas of interest include urban intensification, mixed-use development and redevelopment, retail spaces and transportation.

He writes:

“The Gardiner Expressway is one of the main transportation arteries that connect our city. While I would like everyone to arrive at each of their destinations by public transit, that is a completely unrealistic desire as cars are such an intrinsic part of our transportation network.

“I have heard of many different plans for dealing with the deliberately unkempt and deteriorating elevated section of the Gardener Expressway and I think that any plan that involves demolishing it and putting traffic at grade will be a huge mistake. We have already seen the increases in travel time for those who must use the east section of the Gardiner that was demolished and incorporated into Lake Shore Blvd. a number of years ago and I don’t think we want to repeat this mistake again.

“Burying the Gardiner — well, I think all I need to mention is Boston’s Big Dig and that idea can be sent out the window.

“A proposal to cover the elevated section of the Gardiner with a suspended green roof that would also function as an elevated park is called Toronto’s Green Ribbon. I like this idea as it retains one of the main arteries and improves on it."



Apr 1, 2010, 7:37 PM

Apr 1, 2010, 7:53 PM
Having spent the mid-90s in park development, one of the #1 principles is that people don't go to parks in large numbers unless it's very easy to do so. An elevated park can work if it's not a big climb, and if a bunch of buildings open directly onto it. But in this case it would be several stories. Surely it would be used, but by very many people?

It looks like the project would require a major new structure. If so, my guess is this would be the most expensive park in town, per acre, due to large technical difficulties, starting with new foundations. Based on nothing but this post, it sounds implausible.

New York's high line had neither of these two problems.

This whole topic matches the discussions about Seattle's waterfront viaduct, discussed in another current thread. We're about a year from starting a deep bore tunnel, with demo of the viaduct after the tunnel opens.

Apr 1, 2010, 8:26 PM
But it still disrupts the grid and is a visual blight.

The Chemist
Apr 1, 2010, 10:41 PM
I'm not sure why, but I don't really find Shanghai's elevated freeway network to be visually blighting.

Apr 1, 2010, 11:01 PM
Phoenix once had a similar idea that thankfully never happened (they buried the freeway instead) except the park was under an elevated freeway (I cant believe they thought people would want to hang out under a freeway):



to get on and off the freeway people wouldve had to use giant 'heliocoils':




Busy Bee
Apr 1, 2010, 11:13 PM
Those heliocoils look kinda fun if you had a sporty car.

Apr 2, 2010, 12:13 AM
Good job Phoenix for burying the freeway.

Apr 2, 2010, 4:05 AM
Parks near freeways can work if noise barriers are installed. You'd be surprised how much a wall blocks noise. There are houses right beside elevated freeways in Japan and you barely hear them.

Apr 2, 2010, 4:15 AM
I used to live a block from the same viaduct I mentioned in Seattle. That was fairly intense white noise due to reflected noise from the roof of the lower level. I kind of liked it. It drowned out other noise.

Apr 2, 2010, 4:51 AM
Sometimes I think the true elevated freeways-actual long viaducts over regular streets-aren't that bad aside from aesthetics. Actually I personally think they are kind of cool and fun to drive on(a selfish reason why I dislike sound barriers, they block the view), though this is clearly not an accepted thing among planners.

Seems like the problems come from the wide traffic sewers that block perpedicular side streets and choke areas with congestion, cutting off convenient local access for peds and also other auto users too.

I never understood why US cities didn't built soaring expressways like those in Asian cities. Rather than tear out entire neighborhoods with elaborate earth moving to build these wide divided roads, we could've built concrete viaducts on top of existing paths like old railroad tracks and through warehouse districts.

Apr 2, 2010, 5:12 AM
Building over a monopolized railroad is extremely difficult under US law. Based on what I hear about skybridge construction, etc., the railroad company has most of the power, even though they don't really own the land.

I agree that putting large amounts of traffic on the surface is worse.

Tunnels are far better. Let the local streets be narrow and pedestrian friendly, and let the pass-throughs use the tunnels. I mean in important core areas.

Apr 2, 2010, 5:23 AM
Phoenix once had a similar idea that thankfully never happened (they buried the freeway instead) except the park was under an elevated freeway (I cant believe they thought people would want to hang out under a freeway):

It works nicely in Oakland. This Google street view was just recorded at a time of day when the park was not busy but it is busy weekends. Underneath the freeway are basketball courts.


There's a skateboard park underneath a freeway planned for SF.

Apr 2, 2010, 1:58 PM
True elevated skyways seem to work well if there are good land uses located at the piers' feet.

But OTOH, the idea of elevating a green park ON TOP OF an elevated expressway is just flat-out infeasible. I do believe that the funds associated with that would be about the same as the funds associated with the Big Dig--and the Big Dig offers a far better pedestrian experience!

Apr 2, 2010, 2:09 PM
Phoenix once had a similar idea that thankfully never happened (they buried the freeway instead) except the park was under an elevated freeway (I cant believe they thought people would want to hang out under a freeway):

Miami is planning on doing something similar. I-395 through downtown is a blight. Has been since the beginning. They were studying a cut highway but instead decided to make it twice as tall, with parkland underneath. Could be interesting but I'm not holding my breath.

Apr 2, 2010, 2:41 PM
But it still disrupts the grid and is a visual blight.

Really? I mean, the car part, yeah, but if the 2nd deck was a park instead of a freeway, wouldn't it improve the look?

Apr 2, 2010, 3:57 PM
It'll still look like this from the bottom, which is where most people will see it.

src: http://www.civ.utoronto.ca/sir/default.htm

src: http://bowjamesbow.ca/2006/07/27/to-the-true-end-1.shtml


Apr 2, 2010, 4:07 PM
That idea has been around for a while and I've always thought it to be rather awful, not to mention fiendishly expensive. A much better plan would be to get rid of (to the greatest extent possible) Lakeshore Blvd and create a network of public spaces underneath the highway. This doesn't strictly need to be open space, but can consist of buildings under the envelope, small parks or just pedestrian friendly connectors.

Shawn Micallef from Spacing magazine actually posted an article on this yesterday: http://spacing.ca/wire/2010/04/01/oh-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner-the-gardiner/

I know there's an example in London of public amenities under the Westway but can't find any pictures. I've also seen pictures of highways in Japan where the envelope is used for light industrial structures. The latter is obviously not desirable in this part of Toronto, but still illustrates how the space can be more effectively used.

For more conventional park space here's an image for "underpass" park, underneath onramps into downtown in Toronto's West Don Lands development:

source: waterfrontoronto.ca

Apr 3, 2010, 6:26 PM
Would so many people really be hanging out down there like in the rendering? Sometimes I think we need to accept that cities will always have a gritty or utilitarian side and it should be embraced and not hidden away.

Apr 4, 2010, 1:11 AM
"Adam Zendel is a master’s student studying urban planning at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. Born and raised in Toronto, he has a passion for the city and the built environment. His areas of interest include urban intensification, mixed-use development and redevelopment, retail spaces and transportation."

Not a very good advertisement for the school, if he doesnt understand how induced demand works.

May 4, 2010, 3:29 PM
Transforming the Gardiner into a garden

Apr 23 2010

Patty Winsa


Read More: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/799659--transforming-the-gardiner-into-a-garden

Green Ribbon PDF Report: http://www.quadrangle.ca/articles/GGR%20BOOK%20LATEST.pdf


In a town that wants to tear it down, could the Gardiner Expressway instead become the green mile? The environmental assessment on the section from Jarvis St. to the Don Valley is in its early stages, but already it includes a surprising alternative to removing the highway — an idea to keep it and cover it with a green roof.

The proposal, formally called the Green Ribbon , was first floated by architect Les Klein last June at the ideaCity innovation conference in Toronto. Klein’s vision to keep the expressway and beautify it “went viral”: He did 18 interviews with media outlets in 24 hours. But the notion didn’t just run its course and disappear. “I expected it to be just another idea,” says Klein, who founded Quadrangle Architects in Toronto, “but it resonated in people in quite a positive way.”

Last fall, council voted to include the Green Ribbon in a handful of proposals to be considered as the environmental assessment and integrated urban design study by Waterfront Toronto goes forward. Other options: remove the highway, improve it or keep the status quo. Council’s decision was “interesting,” said Klein. “It gave us some official standing.”

The pitch calls for a green roof over the road from Dufferin St. to the Don Valley. Stairs, ramps and elevators would transport users up 10 metres to a steel and concrete platform filled with lush plantings and paths. Below it, Gardiner traffic would rush on, protected by a roof that would catch snow and eliminate the need to salt the highway. Highrise buildings already lining the Gardiner could link to it.

Klein says the canopy would cost $700 million, less than half the price of tearing down the Gardiner and replacing it with a road at grade. There’s a precedent of sorts. In New York, the High Line, an abandoned elevated rail line built in the 1930s to separate dangerous train traffic from pedestrians, has been turned into an urban garden. The initial section, running north about 10 blocks from the Meatpacking District on the west side, drew two million visitors in its first 10 months.


New York city turned part of on old elevated railline into the popular High Line Park. Could the same be done with parts of Toronto's Gardiner Expressway?


May 4, 2010, 7:16 PM
At least they sound halfway realistic about cost.

I say "halfway" because their "roof/platform" would require a ton of study, starting with foundations, and would require a great deal of mitigation to build over an operating roadway, and therefore the cost is probably not much above educated-guess right now.

But the problem remains: who would go to it? People take the High Line because it's not that far up and it connects to some buildings. The Gardner project would be way higher. People simply don't go out of their way for parks in large numbers.

May 5, 2010, 4:12 AM
It's not impossible to get people to hang out under freeways. This is Sydney's darling harbour




May 5, 2010, 4:21 AM
True, under freeways is easy. You don't have to climb, and it's covered space. The noise can be a problem, but if you put in a high-intensity use, and it's where a lot of people already are, then great.

Not just Darling Harbour but also Circular Quay. It's a tourist spot, at least to hang out before a ferry ride.

May 7, 2010, 3:29 AM
Urban parks take over downtown freeways

May 05, 2010

By Haya El Nasser


Read More: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-05-05-urban-parks_N.htm

Cities are removing the concrete barriers that freeways form through their downtowns — not by tearing them down but by shrouding them in greenery and turning them into parks and pedestrian-friendly developments. This gray-to-green metamorphosis is underway or under consideration in major cities seeking ways to revive sections of their downtowns from Los Angeles and Dallas to St. Louis and Cincinnati. Transportation departments are not opposed as long as the plans don't reduce highway capacity. In most cases, traffic is rerouted.

"It's the coming together of people wanting green space and realizing that highways are a negative to the city," says Peter Harnik, director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence. "Covering them with green space gives you a wonderful place to live and work." Groups that are not always on the same page — environmentalists and developers — are embracing the "capping" or "decking" efforts for different reasons. Environmentalists encourage more trees and grass to offset carbon emissions and promote walkable neighborhoods to reduce reliance on cars. Developers are eager for space to build on in prime downtown locations. Citizens want parks and amenities they can reach on foot.

"Highways are extremely destructive to the fabric of urban life," says Harnik, author of Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities. "The noise that emanates from it, the smell." Capping freeways dates to the 1930s. A recent example is the Rose Kennedy Greenway over Boston's "Big Dig," which created open space by putting elevated roadways underground. The resurgence of downtowns has turned available pieces of land into hot commodities. At the same time, the drumbeat for more parks in smog-choked cities is getting louder. "It's essentially like creating oceanfront property," says Linda Owen, president of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation in Dallas. "It's an economic engine."

Dallas' The Park project includes a 5-acre park on top of the Woodall Rodgers Freeway that cuts through downtown Dallas.


May 7, 2010, 6:05 AM
We have 4 (or 5) up and coming freeway "lid" parks.

May 7, 2010, 6:40 AM
They should cover the Cross - Bronx , I-280 in East Orange , Parts of the Garden state Parkway in Irvington and other poor areas. That would really improve the surrounding areas. By offering a healthier environment. The Cross Bronx Expressway separated the Bronx , but a Park can unite it once again.:)

May 13, 2010, 12:32 PM
We have 4 (or 5) up and coming freeway "lid" parks.

Like these of course, which promise economic development as well as it helping to pay for it.


May 13, 2010, 6:51 PM
We tried it in Philadelphia a whiles ago. There are two freeway lid parks connecting Society Hill and Penn's Landing, and two more connecting the Free Library and Family Court, respectively, to Logan Square (or what's left of it).

Not one of these work.

But at the same time, I'm starting to get the feeling that the reason why they don't work is because they were 1) poorly designed, 2) a compromise between the city's desire to create full lids and the Interstate Highway's desire to create the cheapest Interstate possible, and 3) they don't really connect into any really good development sites.

The full lids being presented as means to create development opportunities look like they may be MUCH more successful than our abortive High Modern efforts.

May 13, 2010, 7:10 PM
Not one of these work.

What are the main problems? I'd guess that they're pretty hard to access, and you can still hear the noise from the highway below. I wonder if there are ways to mitigate those issues - find the few locations with decent access to start with, I suppose.

May 13, 2010, 9:30 PM
I'm highly skeptical of any scheme to integrate park space into elevated highways. In my opinion, a better way to "enliven" elevated highways would be to allow retail structures to be built underneath them, integrating what would otherwise be a dead zone into the city's grid. This is a fairly common approach in cities in Taiwan and Japan (and probably in other parts of Asia), and from what I've seen, generally successful. I suspect that a certain amount of density would be required for this to work, but it's certainly an option to be explored.

This picture is of a restaurant under what I think is the Tokyo Expressway (photo is my own).


Jul 17, 2010, 2:16 AM
How To Revitalize a Highway Underpass (Hint: Turn it into Munchkinland!)

July 16th, 2010

Suzanne LaBarre

Read More: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1661922/how-to-revitalize-a-highway-underpass-hint-turn-it-into-munchkinland

Glasgow officials have unveiled a new urban regeneration project for the city’s downtrodden Cowcaddens area. Their fix isn’t new housing or tearing down the highway or even a High Line of the transatlantic north. It’s giant flowers! Big, fake, aluminum flowers!

Ah, yes, nothing like going from wasteland to Munchkinland. The 50 pink, orange, and yellow flowers have sprouted up along an underpass, forming a cheery bike and pedestrian thoroughfare that links northern Glasgow to the city center. Before, it was a gloomy concrete tract that hinted at an old story in the annals of urban planning: The place used to be a swath of sparkling public space -- Phoenix Park, they called it. Then the M8 motorway came along and ruined everything. In aw-shucks homage, the fake foliage has been christened Phoenix Flowers.

The flowers are part of a larger initiative to raise a 14-hectare section of the city from the ashes of its industrial past (and out of the shadow of said highway) and turn it into a cultural mecca.





Jul 17, 2010, 4:12 AM
In Naugatuck there is a string of parks and pedestrian paths in between the Rt 8 highway which is for the most part elevated, and the Naugatuck River. A section of the river walk that is snugged right against the highway is a bit unpleasant, but the rest is rather enjoyable.

Jul 17, 2010, 7:28 AM
I regularly cross over a freeway while biking downtown. One of the worst problems they cause is the massive amounts of pollution generated, toxic soot in particular is very bad for people - pedestrians, joggers, children - nearby.

Why on earth would you want to encourage people to hang out near 100's of thousands of engines buring petroleum every day, I have no idea.

Better to just tear the damn thing down, stick in a light rail line, and route big trucks onto freight routes.

However, I suppose if your goal is to cause millions of people to have respiratory illnesses and asthma, go for it! Just make sure to hire a cleaning crew to pressure-wash any benches nearby of the black grit that will collect weekly. And don't grow any edible plants in the area!