In the works since 2008, preparatory work for the removal of the Gardiner Expressway's eastbound York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp is well underway, with the busy double-ramp set to be permanently closed as of April 17th, a week today. Ahead of the closure, motorists are now able to access Lake Shore Boulevard's eastbound lanes from the Gardiner off-ramp at Spadina, while ramps off-ramps at Jameson and Jarvis will also continue to provide access to Downtown. 

3D aerial view of the spiral York-Bay-Yonge ramp, image via Google Maps

Located at the heart of the new Downtown neighbourhood now known as the South Core, the cumbersome mid-century off-ramp has occupied increasingly valuable urban space as the city around it grew. Now surrounded by a cluster of high-rises, the area context has drastically transformed since the ramp opened in 1964, when much of the lands south of the rail corridor remained vacant.

Aerial view of the ramp in 1969, image via City of Toronto

The removal of the ageing spiral off-ramp—which has occupied the better part of a city block—will free up space for a new park, stretching between Harbour Street and Queens Quay east of York Street. Although the park remains in the relatively early stages of the design process, the infusion of green space will be undoubtedly meaningful for the area. While land for new parks is notoriously difficult to procure throughout the Downtown core, the space surrounding the off-ramp was already occupied by green space—but which was substantially degraded by the highway infrastructure above. 

Future conditions at York and Harbour, image via City of Toronto

Already under construction beneath the York-Bay-Yonge off-ramp, a comparatively streamlined—and much shorter—new ramp will meet Lake Shore Boulevard and Harbord at Lower Simcoe, a block west of the existing spiral.

An overview of the re-configuration, image via City of Toronto

Set to be completed and opened to traffic near the end of this year, the new Lower Simcoe ramp will be joined by streetscape improvements to Harbour Street, as well as the green space reborn as a park in 2018. 

Existing (top) and future conditions (bottom, by DTAH), southeast from York & Lake Shore, image courtesy of the City of Toronto

Taking advantage of the space freed up by the York-Bay-Yonge ramp's removal, Harbour Street will be widened from three lanes to four between Lower Simcoe and Bay. The expanded street will feature new cycling infrastructure, as well as improved sidewalk conditions, with the aim of creating an improved links to and past the waterfront. With a total cost of approximately $30 million, about a third of the project is being funded via Section 37 community benefit funds from the nearby Sun Life Financial and Harbour Plaza Residences complex.

Improved Harbour Street conditions, looking west, image via City of Toronto (by DTAH)

The new bike lanes and widened, repaved sidewalks—including improved paving and new plantings—are intended to foster a more urban street-level experience, re-shaping a Downtown street that in places still feels like an extended off-ramp.  

Existing (top) and future (bottom) conditions at Harbour and Bay, image via City of Toronto

Complementing the future park, improvements to Harbour Street will take shape in the coming months. Along with the replacement ramp to Lower Simcoe by the fall, the Harbour Street retrofit is set to be completed in early 2018, with the City targeting the completion of "major construction work" in the area by January, notwithstanding the park.  

A timeline of the construction process, image via City of Toronto

We will keep you updated as the re-construction process continues, and a new urban environment takes shape. In the meantime, you can learn more by checking out our associated dataBase file, linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment on this page, or add your voice to the ongoing conversation in our Forum.