toronto allen road

What should Toronto do with Allen Road?

Allen Road is an orphan of the cancelled Spadina Expressway project. Built in two phases between 1966 and 1976, the road was supposed to push south from its current terminus at Eglinton to the Gardiner, roughly following the route of the Spadina subway line to Bloor, but vocal public opposition to the expressway led to its cancellation in 1971 by Premier Bill Davis.

The initial two phases (Wilson Heights to Lawrence and Lawrence to Eglinton) now pose a significant problem for the city. 40 years after the road opened, traffic congestion, poorly planned intersections, dead end streets created by the arrival of the highway, and discontinuous green spaces are having a negative impact on the surrounding community.

In the hope of revitalizing Allen Road, an environmental assessment commissioned by the city has produced a list of five ways to improve the stubby highway: "enhance" the street with minor physical improvements, "modify" it with major improvements, "transform" it into a surface road, bury the road, or remove it entirely, opening the new space for development and new roads. This being Toronto, "do nothing" is also listed as a possibility.

"After more than 40 years of use and with all of its structures, Allen Road is one of the most expensive roads to maintain in the City of Toronto," the report says. "It is now at a natural point in its life-cycle to consider renewal and represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-examine this large piece of civil infrastructure."

Here is a closer look at the 5 options, none of which have a price tag, yet.

toronto allen road

Tweak the existing highway by adding public artwork, landscaping improvements, and better pedestrian facilities. Other possible improvements under this scenario could be improved access points to the subway and adding High Occupancy Vehicle or toll lanes. The core layout of Allen Road and the connecting streets would remain unchanged.

toronto allen road

Make useful improvements to layout of Allen Road. Possibilities include HOV or toll lanes, reconfiguring traffic interchanges, widening bridges, adding ramps and cycling infrastructure. Landscaping and public artwork included in the "enhance" plan could also be added to the highway.

toronto allen road

Transform - Surface Road
Fill in the Allen Road "ravine," burying the subway and building a new surface version of the street on top. The new surface version of the street would likely be less of a highway and something closer in appearance to University Avenue. Intersections would be entirely re-worked and the new space either side of the surface road turned into parks.

toronto allen road

Transform - Tunnel or Deck
This option would allow the city to keep Allen Road by burying it in a tunnel or an underground deck. The subway would remain and the new surface space created by filling in the road would be used for development, new streets, and parks, much like Boston's Big Dig project.

toronto allen road

Demolish Allen Road south of the 401 to Eglinton, bury the subway, and open the new space for development, parks, and new road connections. Lost road connections would be restored, where possible and highway traffic diverted to other streets.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Tom Podolec/blogTO Flickr pool.

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