Rocco Rossi Toronto Tunnel

Is Rocco Rossi's "Toronto Tunnel" the second coming of the Spadina Expressway?

Rocco Rossi has just offered the most significant infrastructure proposal of the 2010 mayoral campaign. Dubbed the "Toronto Tunnel," Rossi plans on connecting the Allen and Gardiner expressways via an underground corridor that sounds a lot like a 2010 version of the divisive Spadina Expressway.

Where in the world the money will come from to build such a massive project has yet to be fully worked out -- though tolls on the route are a possibility -- but just a preparatory study of the tunnel specifics will cost in the neighbourhood of $1.5-million.

At a press conference at Eglinton Ave. and Allen Rd. (not depicted) Rossi said of his surroundings, "This intersection is where vision meets opportunity."

Well, he's certainly got the vision thing down, but more in the sense of a peyote-inspired prophecy than anything resembling a pragmatic plan. Despite the fact that a number of other candidates have proposed large-scale subway expansion, this takes the cake as far as sheer boldness goes. It also verges on the delusional. Aside from the costs of such a project, there are serious feasibility questions that immediately come to mind. Not only is there already a tunnel through this corridor -- would this go beneath or around the Spadina subway line? -- but the impact on the primarily residential areas along the tunnel's likely path would be profound.

As the mayoral election nears its last month, there's little doubt that Rossi's campaign needed a jump start. Well, this is a pretty transparent effort to do just that. But given how few specifics have been offered and the plethora of complications that would surround such a project, today's announcement could very well backfire completely.

Update (3:20 pm):

The Rocco Rossi campaign team have added a Q & A about the tunnel to their original press release. Despite the title, however, this little segment answers no questions whatsoever, and makes a few wonderful claims. On the cost of the project: "the cost per mile can be as little as $105 million per kilometre." Wow. That's some interesting math. And, even better, "the Tunnel will not disrupt a single neighbourhood, street or family home." I guess "tunnel" gets capitalized to emphasize that it's a proper place in dreamland.


Question: How much will the Toronto Tunnel study cost?

Answer: The cost of the study to determine specifications for the Toronto Tunnel will represent a negligible portion of Toronto's overall operating budget. My plans to reduce the Mayor's salary, halve the number of City Councillors and eliminate waste will more than offset the cost and ensure that no increase in overall spending is required.

Question: How will the Toronto Tunnel project be funded?

Answer: There are a variety of financing models that have been used in different jurisdictions to fund similar projects in a fiscally responsible way. A public-private-partnership could work particularly well for this project, but Rocco Rossi will not take any options off the table.

Question: How much will the Toronto Tunnel project cost?

Answer: A determination of an exact cost estimate will require an engineering report. However, similar projects in Switzerland, Australia, Los Angeles, Seattle, Nanjing, and some underway like in Mimi suggest that the cost per mile can be as little as $105 million per kilometre. Keeping costs down will require new accountability measures at City Hall like the ones Rocco Rossi has proposed.

Question: Will the Allen Expressway be turned into a toll road?

Answer: The project is a partnership with the private sector. The recovery of costs will be determined in the study. There could be a role for tolls for the Toronto Tunnel-portion of the Allen Expressway.

Question: What route will the Toronto Tunnel take?

Answer: The Allen Tunnel will begin where the Allen Expressway ends at Eglinton Avenue and continue to the Gardiner Expressway. An engineering report will be required to determine exact specifications.

Question: Will the Toronto Tunnel disrupt residential neighbourhoods?

Answer: No. The Tunnel will not disrupt a single neighbourhood, street or family home. In fact, it will divert traffic directly downtown which currently exits the Allen Expressway into neighbourhoods, thus reducing traffic levels in residential areas.

Photo from Rocco Rossi's Flickr stream

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