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The Fort York Bridge is a no-go

Posted by Derek Flack / May 18, 2011

Fort York BridgeDespite the efforts of Councillor Mike Layton and what appeared to be solid public support, City Council voted earlier today to cancel the Fort York Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge. Well, in fact, debate regarding the future of the bridge itself never even made it to council — insofar as the initial decision to nix the bridge came from the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, today's motion to bring it before council for further debate required a two thirds victory. The vote on the motion came in at 22-23.

Due to factors related to construction over the railway tracks and the need to revisit the Environmental Assesment for a new bridge — which pretty much everyone agrees needs to be built — it's likely that it'll be at least five years before a new project takes shape. That's disappointing in a number of ways for supporters of the bridge, not the least of which because the initial completion was planned to correspond with the bicentenary celebrations of the war of 1812.

Congratulations on choosing mediocrity, Toronto.

Update (4:30 p.m.)

Here's how the vote broke down.




Glenn / May 18, 2011 at 04:37 pm
Correction: It was actually the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee which referred it back to staff for a cheaper option.
Derek replying to a comment from Glenn / May 18, 2011 at 04:48 pm
Noted, and updated.
Balls / May 18, 2011 at 04:50 pm
Well that's just balls.
Oni / May 18, 2011 at 04:57 pm
Living in this city is an excercise in frustration. So many interesting things get planned, only to fail. I remember when I first saw a poster for Transit City and my initial reaction was to roll my eyes. Like it would ever actually happen. (It would not)
Stuck In Traffic / May 18, 2011 at 04:58 pm
Soon there will be too many people in Liberty Village and not enough ways to get in and out of it.
Michael / May 18, 2011 at 05:00 pm
"Congratulations on choosing mediocrity, Toronto."

What a smarmy, easy thing to say from someone who obviously wants everything while sacrificing nothing.
Spadina / May 18, 2011 at 05:00 pm
Typical of our increasingly provincial, miserly, pissant little town.
Ryan / May 18, 2011 at 05:02 pm
Just another reason to move out of Liberty Village. Thanks for making Toronto great, idiot politicians we voted for.
john / May 18, 2011 at 05:05 pm
Well fuck Rob Ford and his band of merry dullards who don't give a whit about anything outside their large fenced-in backyards.

At the same time, however, fuck David Miller and his cohort for being in power for many years and not actually getting enough proper infrastructure projects started and completed or at least built to the point where cancellation was not an option. Had he been more aggressive on Transit City, on the Fort York bridge, on Waterfront, etc., there'd be far less low-hanging fruit for Ford to pluck off in his continued "fuck y'all" message to those who choose to live IN the city rather than just work here.
john / May 18, 2011 at 05:07 pm
And I might add, only in fucking Toronto could it take anywhere close to almost a DECADE to build a relatively short pedestrian bridge over some train tracks -- and that's on everyone involved, through both the Miller and Ford "administrations".
michael s / May 18, 2011 at 05:10 pm
I wonder how much more it is going to cost to find a cheaper option? The bridge was beautiful and well thought out- $1.5 million spent so far down the toilet- All to make a dent in the Fords $800.000.00 plus hole he has dug in next years budget-
John replying to a comment from Michael / May 18, 2011 at 05:15 pm
@Michael: the sacrifice here was made by the residents of the Fort York condo communities. They have been paying property taxes for years without receiving their fair share of public investments.

When someone like David Shiner says "We can't afford it," I want to tell him, "It's not your money!" If the City collects property taxes from the condo residents, then the City is obliged to make the investments necessary to create a functional neighborhood. Instead, the City has chosen to abandon the condo residents to an isolated, underserviced ghetto.

Mike Layton should propose that condo residents receive a property tax rebate until the City finally provides the high-quality public spaces, connections and amenities the residents deserve and have been paying for.
M / May 18, 2011 at 05:19 pm
Done by 2012? Even if this made it past today's vote we wouldn't see that bridge there for a solid 18+ months.

Still, too bad the Ford is happy to have blown the
mark b / May 18, 2011 at 05:21 pm
Pathetic, stupid, and short-sighted. Toronto once again fails to take the initiative and instead the forces of reaction destroy what could have been...
Gunn replying to a comment from Michael / May 18, 2011 at 05:27 pm
"Congratulations on choosing mediocrity, Toronto."

What a smarmy, easy thing to say from someone who obviously wants everything while sacrificing nothing.


Totally agree. Thankfully the pinhead(Derek)is not in charge of taxpayers money and cant use it as his personal bank account. we've already been through his kind of thinking which is why we are broke and cant pay for nice things .
MrD / May 18, 2011 at 05:27 pm
- "Oh let's build this!" "Nahh, department A says it's too expensive."
- "This is really needed and would improve our city!" "Nahh, it only serves one small part of the community."
- "This project would be great at improving livability!" "Nahh, we can't agree if it should be big or small so let's not build it."


"Hey, why does that other city have all those fancy things that we don't have?"
Gordon / May 18, 2011 at 05:36 pm
Get used to it Toronto. You voted for this "vision".
michael / May 18, 2011 at 05:39 pm
@ Gordon the suburbs voted for this "Vision" and others calling Derek Smarmy and Pinhead grow UP
W. K. Lis / May 18, 2011 at 05:40 pm
So much for independent thinking on city council. I will remember this at the next city election and work for an opposing candidate, not just vote.
rek replying to a comment from Michael / May 18, 2011 at 05:42 pm
What sacrifice? The damn thing was already paid for, all but a pittance that could have been made up with some of Ford's fairytale private partnership or even naming rights.
Chris / May 18, 2011 at 05:59 pm
It is funny to me that with all the talk from the Ford camp about how great Chicago is, you would think they would try to emulate the city.. The Gehry bridge didn't come cheap, neither did Calgary's Calatrava. Funny how other cities in the world get things done and Toronto who is always trying to be someone else can't even get a pedestrian bridge to one of its oldest landmarks.
jb / May 18, 2011 at 06:03 pm
Wow, are we really surprised? Just look at the decisions the city has made in the past half-year.
mick / May 18, 2011 at 06:08 pm
I see newly-minted councillor Jaye Robinson voted against. If memory serves, she was the former head of Economic Development, Culture and Tourism --three sectors that would have benefited from such a bridge. That's just gross.

(Roll over much, Jaye??)
Antony / May 18, 2011 at 06:11 pm
Poor Fort York, chopped away from the city by train tracks, 6 lanes of elevated highway, and two pedestrian-unfriendly bridges.

So instead in five years it will get a corrugated steel & concrete bridge with chain-link cage walls?
Keith Soltys / May 18, 2011 at 06:13 pm
Toronto: The city that can't.
Mike W replying to a comment from rek / May 18, 2011 at 06:19 pm
Ford's private partnerships would never work in practice, but that's what we should have used to pay for the difference. lol.
Mike W / May 18, 2011 at 06:20 pm
By the way the "solid public support" the author linked in the G&M article was actually described as "an unlikely patchwork". Not exactly synonyms...

Or was it a reference to Mike Layton's crowd of 20 condo dwellers and hand full of developers?
Antony / May 18, 2011 at 07:10 pm
Well, there were 460 submissions from the public, 1,500 names on a petition & 1,000 letters to Mike Layton. That's pretty solid public support, especially at a ward level.
Wallet / May 18, 2011 at 07:29 pm
Come on people get with the program, this is a new Toronto. People think with their wallets now, people don't care what Toronto looks like, or how green it could be, or if it makes it easier for people to get around. As long as it doesn't raise taxes, people are happy. Plain & simple. Majority of people in Etobicoke, North York, & Scarborough could give a rats ass if this got built. I should know, most of my family in burbs don't want to waste money on this. They 100% support ford idiots on this.
Nick replying to a comment from Gunn / May 18, 2011 at 08:39 pm
@Gunn and @Michael - the thing is, Ford is completely willing to have us pay $4,000,000,000 for a subway to Scarborough Town Centre*.

The miniscule miniscule fraction** of that to cover the cost overrun of the Fort York bridge (which was alreayd budgeted for, in any case) isn't about "respect for taxpayers". It's about punishing Adam Vaughn and downtown elistists.

*Make no mistake about it, even under some dubious P3 scheme or tax increment financing, the city will loose out on future revenue if the Scarborough subway ever gets built, which means we'll all have to chip in more to maintain the level of services appropriate for a city our size.

** The $5 million overrun amounts to one twelfth of the canceled VRT, so by saving $60 a year we'll get fugly infrastructure instead of inspiring infrastructure. Yay.
Nick replying to a comment from michael s / May 18, 2011 at 08:46 pm
@Michael S: That'd be a $800,000,000 hole Ford's dug! You can see now what will play out: the need to sell off the City's waterfront property, which instead of being developed in a rational way, will become a wall of condos on the west waterfront, and to the east. Hey, isn't that what people hated about Harbourfront? Oh well, Ford Nation wanted lower taxes. Let's see what transpires with the budget "consultation" currently ongoing. I'm wondering what the Nation will think went Rob "no service cuts" really starts slashing next year.
Enrico Pallazzo replying to a comment from Antony / May 18, 2011 at 09:26 pm
Fair enough, but public support this far away from an election means nothing. Nobody will remember this in 3 years, so politicians really don't give a shit today. My guess is the outcome would have been drastically different had this been voted on mid 2010.

I'm somewhat more pissed about the City repealing it's own harmonized zoning by-law today. Not so much because the by-law was repealed, as it was somewhat of a minefield, but how incompetently it's been handled over the past few years to begin with. My understanding is this decision cost the taxpayer far more than the cancellation of the bridge.
andrewS / May 18, 2011 at 09:58 pm
"we've already been through his kind of thinking which is why we are broke and cant pay for nice things ."

No, we're broke because Mayor Gravy Train fucked the city in a different way before finding a whole mess of sub-fuckings to partake in.

This city is a disaster. I'm close to giving up on it. Let the suburban inbreds squabble over pennies of property tax and let's go build a real city where they actually want to live in one.
Marc / May 18, 2011 at 10:14 pm
So, what's next? The Waterfront? St. Lawrence Market North? It's funny how these crucial infrastructure projects are considered gravy, but dumping millions more on police isn't. Maybe we can get what Doug Ford wants: An NFL stadium on the waterfront with plenty of parking, with a monorail to link to it! Of course! This is 2011, monorails are in style!

This council sickens me.
mike / May 18, 2011 at 10:17 pm
people need to vote next time better. in the mean time call council and tell then how you feel. this city at this pace will be detroit jr with the fords at the helm
Tim / May 18, 2011 at 11:00 pm
Rob Ford & Co didn't come out of nowhere. I agree with @Wallet, that the 'burbs fully support the Fords on stuff like this. All you hear from conservatives are some delusions about wasting taxpayer dollars, gravy and pinkos. It doesn't matter that Miller left a surplus, or that we had the first fully paid for transit plan in decades (that addressed transit needs in the suburbs), etc.

And now this. Fort York was the founding site of Toronto. AND the funds for the bridge were already allocated (and the cost overruns were being allotted - correct me if I'm wrong). We're dealing with a group of people that think it's too expensive to devote quality design and attention to such a site. I'm telling you guys. We need to de-amalgamate (I'm with @andrewS).

We progressive's need to stop deluding ourselves that we'll be able to convince these people with such arguments about economics, history, society, or even the point of progress (why work so hard if we refuse to celebrate our own achievements). But this is where the rubber hits the road. I say we start organizing a progressive block and build support through to the next election. Now, who's willing to work towards that.
bob replying to a comment from Marc / May 18, 2011 at 11:13 pm
No progress or news about St. Lawrence Market North has happened since the winning design was chosen (no more influx of Brit architects for us!), so you can pretty much call it deadpool.
Tim / May 18, 2011 at 11:16 pm
Mea culpa - I'll amend my previous comment. I shouldn't be lashing out strictly at the suburbs. Many progressive people all over the city. But progressives do need to come together - in a block. Runoff elections anyone?

oh well replying to a comment from Tim / May 18, 2011 at 11:39 pm
sadly, yet predictably, the harris amalgamation plan has come to fruition - the angry suburbs have taken over the city.
it's quite ridiculous how one governments policies (the harris pc's) have had such a profound effect on the city/province for so long. I'm afraid the fords steamrolling of policies will have the same long lasting repercussions - if not more.
rip toronto.
Cuts replying to a comment from Nick / May 18, 2011 at 11:41 pm
" I'm wondering what the Nation will think went Rob "no service cuts" really starts slashing next year."

They won't because lets get real here. large part of Ford supporters are home owners, that own at least one car, and don't really use many city services. They don't use city day care, they don't use city youth drop in centres like neighbours next door program, pools, transit, parks, and so on. As long as they can get their kids ice time, property taxes stay low, and the roads are fixed they are happy. What else do they need from the city, seriously? This is why they are tired of rising taxes, when they don't use any programs. This is how this city will vote from now on, when the go into the ballot box they are going to be voting from their wallets, and nothing else. Why would they care about the waterfront, when they go to cottage every weekend? Seriously many especially where i live in Etobicoke avoid downtown like the plaque, especially the crowd that is 40 plus in age, and they are the ones that actually get and vote every election.
George / May 19, 2011 at 12:04 am
I support a bridge, but THIS bridge just looked hideous.
MOrga / May 19, 2011 at 12:31 am
Honestly, What don't you people get WE CAN'T AFFORD IT!!!!!!!! GET OVER IT!!!! I live in this neighborhood and I understand sacrifice. I'm not going out to buy a BMW when all I can afford is a kia. F off
really? replying to a comment from MOrga / May 19, 2011 at 02:30 am
but we can afford extravagant (and precedent setting) TPS union raises? we can afford to build (another!) subway to nowhere? we can afford to refuse provincial cash for transit? we can afford to not increase property taxes (of which we have some of the LOWEST in the region)? We can afford to not use the city of Toronto act to supplement the inadequate property taxes? can we afford to stop investing in the city and its inhabitants?
remember: we had a SURPLUS before ford came along.
Get your head out of your ideological ass and think - don't react - think.
Jer / May 19, 2011 at 06:46 am
I am glad that Precious little bridge got axed. I am sick of Toronto trying to play big International Cosmopolitan City. I want a livable city where it is easy to commute, play, shop, and work. I want less passion and more thoughtfulness. Am I saying that I want functioning mediocrity and Mississauga as our role model, not little isolated splashes of greatness amongst vast swaths of traffic-snarled, transit-poor near-ghetto - maybe I am. What is it really that makes TO so good, really? It almost sounds like the idea of having cool night spots, interesting attractions and restaurants, and some bohemian culture -- for which the average hipster may spend 2-3 hours per week enjoying, is more important than safe roadways, functioning pedestrian areas, maintaining services like trash and utilities. It almost sounds like the ravings of an addicted nut "...spare me the functioning necessities.. all i want is a few hits of the glory.." I am not saying get rid of those great bits of culture, entertainment, festivals, etc., just shift focus to keeping the place functional. Do that many of us have the mental unbalance and value system of 14-year-olds? But maybe these people don't really care- maybe they don't own or stay anywhere regularly - maybe they milk the local city hotspots for its glory and hey - if it gets boring - lets move to Montreal or Vancouver or the States. Hey were not invested in its future. Its easier to add bits of greatness to a successful place like Mississauga, then it is to add and maintain infrastructure to Toronto. Interesting. Well Ford is putting an end to that fluffy hipster nonsense - yay. And I believe that the quiet majority supports this Return to Sanity - and that's why he got voted in - right-wing crazoid that he is.
Gordon replying to a comment from MOrga / May 19, 2011 at 07:58 am
Just like we can't afford subways MOrga. Following your logic, we'd look for an affordable compromise that would serve many like say... Transit City but unfortunately there is no logic at City Hall.
Alex / May 19, 2011 at 09:29 am
I wonder if all the ideological thunderc*nts screeching about how we "can't afford" this bridge are the same people who insist that the Harper Conservatives spending $1 billion on glow sticks, miniature flags and a fake lake for the G20 was justifiable because it "made Canada look good". Sigh.
gadfly replying to a comment from Jer / May 19, 2011 at 09:36 am
WAH, WAH, WAH. I can just picture you stomping your feet and crying while you type.
You just don't get it, do you? The city is, by all definitions, bankrupt. Any projects that get approved from here on in will have to have proven benefits to a lot of people, not just a few downtown crack heads.
Seriously, did you not see how much BIXI just got bailed out in Montreal. You really want to use BIXI and tourism as a reason to build that silly bridge? Why can't the cyclists wait for a widened and improved Bathurst Bridge like the rest of us? That bridge is going to fall down soon enough unless replaced. Why not just add a precious bicycle lane to THAT?
It is because previous Councils were unable to say no to the aggressive tactics of certain interest groups that we are in this friggin' mess.
gadfly replying to a comment from bob / May 19, 2011 at 09:40 am
No, maybe the city will take a deep breath and use this opportunity to do something about the crush of traffic from Queen, south to the Gardiner. It is outrageous that the mere idea of a left turn lane was never considered for Front St with this proposal. Typical of the city: throw up 5,000 condo units into an area already bursting at the seams and deliberately strangle traffic, hoping that people will stop driving and - what, bicycle? Walk? Totally laughable.
It's not working in Liberty Village, it's not working in Bathurst/Lakeshore, Concorde Place, and it certainly won't happen in the St. Lawrence Market area.
(You don't think all those new car dealerships have not done their market research?)
You guys never disappoint in giving me my morning laugh.
j-rock / May 19, 2011 at 10:09 am
The "Toronto is bankrupt" lie would be more effective if he didn't just give the cops a 12% raise and continue to insist on building a $4 billion white elephant of a subway line to nowhere. Not to mention the budget surplus he just pissed away last year. Self-interested suburbanites put their man in the big seat, and Ford is determined to turn Toronto into Mississauga.
Jess Ewles / May 19, 2011 at 10:15 am
My feeling is Ford will move to sell off the public land the bridge touches on the North side. Maybe build a WalMart or a Home Depot there.
Jess Ewles replying to a comment from gadfly / May 19, 2011 at 10:18 am
@gadfly Actually, the bridge was all ready planned and paid for. Ford is cannibalizing the previous administrations projects, in order to pay for his unsustainable tax cuts.
Mike W replying to a comment from Jess Ewles / May 19, 2011 at 10:27 am
I always wonder if the commenters who make these bullshit claims feel embarrassed when they're flat out wrong?
towner replying to a comment from gadfly / May 19, 2011 at 11:08 am
The city of Toronto is NOT bankrupt. It's not even remotely close to being bankrupt. You can keep saying that over and over but it doesn't make it true.

(I used caps lock because I heard that works better on Ford supporters)
mike in parkdale / May 19, 2011 at 12:10 pm
not trying to be a huge troll here or anything....

but is the bridge really needed?

It starts on the south side of Wellington just under Stanley park and the other side is in the park just West of Fort York, right? Why not just walk across the bridge on Strachan? There's even stairs form the bridge into the park, so you don't have any backtracking to do.

I understand that it would help make this area a little more walkable, but it's only a 10 minute walk at the moment. Plus anyone coming from West of Strachan or East of Bathurst could just cross at those bridges.

I'm all for having a walkable city, but there are other places where a bridge would make more sense - like at King/Sudbury into the Liberty Village plaza.
John replying to a comment from MOrga / May 19, 2011 at 12:12 pm
@MOrga the point is: if you live in the Fort York neighborhood, you have <i>already paid for a BMW</i>, and now you are not even getting a Kia. And the City intends to sell off your parkland to build more condos (which is what this affair is really about - not the expense of the bridge). The City is milking you like a cash cow, squandering your scarce public spaces and taking your tax money without investing it in your neighborhood. And you are nodding in approval! So you get to live in what will become a concrete slum, with shrunken parks and few connections, while Ford throws money at the police, the NFL and monorails. Is that really what you signed up for?
the lemur replying to a comment from gadfly / May 19, 2011 at 12:31 pm
Don't hold your breath waiting for Ford to do anything at all about Liberty Village's traffic situation, okay?
the lemur replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 19, 2011 at 12:32 pm
There is already a plan for a bridge from King and Sudbury to the Metro plaza.
mike in parkdale replying to a comment from the lemur / May 19, 2011 at 12:37 pm
yes, I know there's a plan to build one. A city owned building that would be the northern footprint has already come down. I was just using that as an example of a real 'time saving' bridge. Thanks for putting the info out there for people who didn't know about the other bridge plan.
ttraveller / May 19, 2011 at 12:54 pm
Get real people. I'm a downtown cyclist and I would love to have that bridge. Real life is when our world class city "budgets" $23 million, this is code for "when the final cost comes in at $50 million, we can blame Metrolinks." St. Clair, Ronces, Al La Carte, TCHC, the St Peter shelter, and on and on. First show the taxpayers you can get something built on time and on budget. Then we'll talk. This is what Ford has to deal with.
the lemur replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / May 19, 2011 at 01:25 pm
Ah, I see now why you said that.

To go back to your original question, no, the bridge isn't strictly necessary. It'll be nice to have (when it's ultimately built, since it's on hold now, right). The thing that makes it awkward is that money has already gone into the planning that will be written off; the bridge could have been built with the current design but since everything will have to wait until Metrolinx and GO are done with their next set of projects, any redesign will be costly.

The ray of hope for me is that other projects will make the area more accessible: grade separation at Strachan (maybe a walkway under that, like at Spadina?), the Portland St extension, the 'bridge to Metro', Bathurst St bridge rehab, new Bathurst/Fort York intersection ...
gbenji / May 19, 2011 at 01:45 pm
closing libraries, canceling pedestrian/cycle bridge, plans to remove bike lanes - looks like the ford brother's want a fat and stupid toronto they can feel at home in!
Michael replying to a comment from the lemur / May 19, 2011 at 03:18 pm
Yes. So what's the hubbub? Derek Flack.

He knows the bridge is over-budget before a shovel could be put in the ground. Read his previous posts on the subject. He knows staff supports a re-do. He knows the bridge is not the end of the world.

His troll-like quips are just to inflame the comments section.

This blog is ridiculous, divisive and inflammatory and its Derek Flack's fault.
bob / May 19, 2011 at 11:10 pm
The Fork York bridge goes, yet gadfly still remains. What a shame...
gadfly replying to a comment from towner / May 24, 2011 at 08:59 am
Really? Toronto is not bankrupt? $445M EVERY YEAR goes to 'debt servicing.' That would build a lot of homeless shelters/bicycle lanes/pigeon crossings, or whatever silly socialist project you support.
The City itself is around $2.5 BILLION dollars (that's 9 zeroes for the mathematically challenged) in debt. That's just Toronto. That's not including all the (as yet) unfunded pet projects that were already approved. Do you want to bet what the upcoming games are going to ACTUALLY cost the city? Or the $40M BIXI will be asking for in a couple years, like in Montreal? Ontario Hydro (for which we are all responsible has $20.1 BILLION in 'stranded debt.' (Love that term - they are actually $43 BILLION in REAL debt, but an accounting flip of the column makes it half.) Then there's Ottawa's more than half a TRILLION dollars in debt, and Ontario's remaining debt.... I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Or, more likely you don't. You think money grows on trees.

@ Bob - Oh, poor baby - you don't want people who don't think like you to play in YOUR sandbox. Why don't you leave, then?
WorldClass / May 26, 2011 at 04:38 pm
Brilliant decision. Keep taxes low. This city has never been world class.... just a dream.... just travel to any US city these days and open your eyes! Denver, St Louis, even Omaha!
Other Cities: Montreal