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Gardiner Expressway construction causing major traffic delays and emissions increase

Arafat Rahman

The longer commute times are leading to a 23% increase in vehicle emissions

Toronto commuters are facing a summer of discontent as construction on the Gardiner Expressway significantly increases travel times and emissions. A recent study by Geotab ITS revealed the harsh impact of the project, with rush hour commutes on the major artery experiencing a staggering increase of up to 250%.

The study, which tracked over 10,000 commercial vehicles before and after construction began in March, found westbound morning rush hour travel times have skyrocketed by 250%. Eastbound commutes haven’t fared much better, with afternoon rush hour trips experiencing a 230% increase. These delays are particularly evident on specific stretches, with the average travel time from Humber River to Strachan Ave. jumping from 8 minutes to 20 minutes, and the 5 km journey between Jarvis St. and Dufferin St. now taking 25 minutes, compared to the pre-construction time of 11 minutes.

The burden isn’t limited to car commuters. Commercial vehicle drivers are shouldering the brunt of the delays, spending a staggering 80% more time stuck in traffic each day. This translates to significant productivity losses for businesses, especially those reliant on last-mile deliveries. The Toronto Region Board of Trade estimates that traffic congestion already costs the city over $11 billion annually in lost productivity.

The impact extends beyond the Gardiner itself, as frustrated drivers seek alternate routes. The resulting surge in traffic on secondary roads like Harbour St., Lakeshore Blvd., and Cherry St. has caused congestion to spike by an average of 43%. This further exacerbates travel times, with Harbour St. experiencing a 72% increase, Lakeshore Blvd. a 30% increase, and Cherry St. a 27% increase.

Environmental concerns are another consequence of the construction. Longer commutes translate to increased vehicle emissions. Geotab’s study found a 23% rise in emissions due to idling and slower speeds, resulting in an additional 1,200 kg of CO2 daily – equivalent to the carbon footprint of a roundtrip flight from Toronto to Vancouver. The study also identified a 26% increase in idling time for commercial vehicles, and a doubling of traffic traveling at speeds below 25 km/h.

The construction project, which began in March 2024, is part of a critical rehabilitation plan for the over 60-year-old Gardiner Expressway. Lane closures are expected to remain in place until mid-2027, with a brief reprieve during the FIFA World Cup in 2026.

With summer construction season coinciding with ongoing works on the Gardiner and the Ontario Line, Toronto commuters may be facing the worst commute ever. To avoid the gridlock, residents are encouraged to consider alternative modes of transportation, such as walking or cycling, as the city expands its network of bike lanes and paths.

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