Debris from the bottom of the Gardiner Expressway is seen on the sidewalk along Simcoe at the northeast corner of Lakeshore Blvd., on Tuesday, May 22, 2012. (Ernest Doroszuk/QMI Agency)
TORONTO - Toronto Coun. Doug Ford says adding toll lanes to the crumbling Gardiner Expressway could help fix it up.
Ford made the comments Friday in the wake of a new report that warns the deterioration of the downtown elevated highway is a lot worse than the city believed.
The report by IBI Group is an independent assessment of the current city practices in the management of the highway, which was in the spotlight this year as several pieces of concrete continued to fall off.
"Potential concrete spalls (chips or splinters) present a significant hazard to public safety," the report notes. "As noted previously, there is no procedure or methodology that can definitively identify an imminent spalling threat.
"In order to provide protection and reduced risk, a physical barrier is required to contain spalled concrete."
The engineering firm also notes the deck repair/replacement program the city is undertaking isn't based on engineering needs.
"The deck repair/replacement program, as presented in the background material supplied to IBI, appears to be based on a general progression of the works from east to west based on yearly budgets rather than engineering priorities," the report notes "This is clearly not in the best interest of the public."
Ford said the city should look to the private sector to help speed up and fund repairs.
"I've said right from the beginning, you've got to look at a (public-private partnership)," Ford said. "If they get a toll road -- it has to be separate -- but I'd pay the $5 to get downtown every day."
Ford, who says he drives on the Gardiner everyday, stressed the toll lanes couldn't replace the existing lanes on the highway.
"You either get a freebie or a toll," he said.
The Ward 2 Etobicoke North councillor wouldn't rule out asking the provincial or federal government to help fix the expressway.
"But that's our road and we have to take the responsibility of it," he said.
Public Works chairman Denzil Minnan-Wong said the report on the Gardiner raises some "significant concerns."
"We are waiting for the final report but we are going to take their recommendations seriously," he said. "While there is no immediate threat to safety, the recommendations indicate we need to do a lot more to make it safe."
Minnan-Wong estimated the city will need to spend an extra $20 million a year on Gardiner repairs. That would be an increase from the current $15 million to $35 million a year.
Any talk of tearing down the Gardiner rather than fixing it was "premature," he said.
"It is an important piece of infrastructure and it would cost a lot more to replace it than repair it," Minnan-Wong said.
"If you think it is expensive to maintain it, that is nothing compared to the cost of replacing it."