Saturday, March 7, 2009

PDP #7: Never the Richview

Back in those swingin' 1950s, when life was awesome if you weren't a woman, a minority, a Communist, or anyone else who didn't fit into the rigid and unbending Leave it to Beaver society which was the style at the time - anyone who wasn't a middle-aged, conservative white male, really - Fred Gardiner was busy building a foundation for the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. Being that it was the 1950s, when gas was practically cheap as air and no one had stopped to think about the consequences of dumping ever-increasing gigatonnage of heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, this foundation was based on highways.

Today, Toronto is not particularly well-served by expressways in comparison to other North American cities. This wouldn't be the case had Gardiner and his successors got his way. In addition to the Gardiner Expressway, a concrete ribbon which divides Harbourfront from downtown and will probably be torn down in piecemeal Real Soon Now, and the Don Valley Parkway, a north-south route designed to make commuters nostalgic for the blinding speed of the horse and buggy, the city had further plans.

Had the 1960s gone the way the planners intended, ground would have been broken on the Spadina Expressway, the Richview Expressway, the Crosstown Expressway, and the extension of Highway 400 south to meet the Gardiner. Toronto would have had a highway system tied tight as a noose around the downtown core and filtering into every corner of the city.

As for the neighborhoods and wildlands that would have had to be demolished? Well, that's progress. Fortunately for those who didn't agree with shackling the city's future to the internal combustion engine, public opposition to the Spadina Expressway built to such an extent that it was only completed as a muted stub running through a North York trench, and the others were never built at all.

Today's photo is of Eglinton Avenue West, looking east toward downtown York, just west of the intersection with Black Creek Drive. Had Metro's highway plan gone ahead, none of this would be here. This would instead be where the Richview Expressway connected with Highway 400, proceeding south, and the Crosstown Expressway, proceeding east.

I don't think it would have looked nearly so green.

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