Roads Never Built
By Bob Georgiou
This article first appeared in the Spring 2019/Issue 50 edition of Spacing Magazine. With permission, I have reproduced it here.
Throughout its history, the City of Toronto has reimagined its street grid. Growth periods following both World Wars brought with them road improvement schemes to address traffic congestion and better connect the city. Some projects – like the 1931 Church Street extension north of Bloor Street to Davenport Road – came to fruition. Others – most famously, the Spadina Road Extension-turned-expressway cancelled in 1971 – never saw their intended results. Here are four other road extensions in the 20th century that would have altered the geography of Toronto if built.
When: 1900s to 1930s
In 1906, the Board of Works discussed the possibility of extending Victoria Street from Gerrard Street to Carlton Street for a new streetcar route. Yonge Street relief had been a theme in road improvement, with Bay Street extended north from Queen Street to Davenport in the 1920s (it was even proposed to extend it to St. Clair Avenue in the 1930s and 1940s). Estimates in 1911 had the Victoria-to-Carlton scheme costing as much as $500,000, and a report by the Civic Improvement Committee proposed to extend it further to Bloor. With costs to expropriate property proving too high, Civic Works abandoned the idea in 1912. City Planners revived the idea in a grander plan for downtown streets in 1929. In yet another city-wide improvement plan in 1930, Works Commissioner RC Harris recommended a streetcar-free Victoria Street that would stretch north via Park Road to join with the also-proposed Jarvis and Sherbourne extensions of Mount Pleasant Road. A council motion in 1935 envisioned Victoria ending at Davenport Road, but none of these plans came to fruition. Today, Victoria Street is in fact shorter, ending at Gould after its last block was absorbed by the Ryerson Campus.
St. Clair Avenue
When: 1920s, 1960s-1970s
A Council decision in 1928 by East York and York County first imagined uniting the two sections of St. Clair Avenue. Initial talks involved land offers and easements from John H. Taylor and the Toronto City Estates to complete the extension in the Don Valley. Discussions followed in 1929 on the course’s starting point and overall engineering. One route extended straight east from Mount Pleasant Road while the other travelled by way of Moore Avenue via a bridge spanning the Belt Line Ravine from St. Clair. From here, the street would connect to the new Leaside Viaduct, then follow Don Mills Road to Woodbine Avenue before finally bridging diagonally across Massey Creek. Moore Park residents disapproved of the Moore Avenue alignment as it meant more vehicular traffic. Discussion seemed to taper off in the 1930s. Reprises in the 1960s saw a valley-spanning St. Clair brought up again, but these too ended in 1970 when the Metro government decided not to proceed after facing public opposition and high costs.
As a candidate for East York Reeve in the 1956 election, Jack Allen campaigned on the eastward extension of Cosburn Avenue. After winning the position, he continued his push in 1957 and 1958, highlighting a scheme in which the street would continue past Woodbine Avenue by curving parallel to the disused CNR line in the Taylor-Massey Creek valley to connect with Victoria Park Avenue. The purpose was to relieve congestion at Woodbine and O’Connor. Allen also thought the extension would aid the case for a new courthouse at Cosburn and Woodbine and his vision of high-density apartment towers in East York. Parkland advocates at the Don Valley Conservation Association opposed the plan. Allen introduced a master zoning plan by developer and architect Sulio Venchiarutti of Urban Planning Consultants, but this was rejected by East York Council in 1959. A year later, the township adopted a different official plan and Allen was replaced as reeve by future mayor True Davidson.
When: 1960s to 1990s
Following initial suggestions in 1968 and failed proposals in 1971 and 1973, in 1976 Metro Planners brought forward a $20-million extension of Leslie Street south of Eglinton Avenue. Debates around the idea coincided with another valley-spanning proposal in the 1970s for the direct routing of Lawrence Avenue from Bayview to Leslie. Arguments in favour of a lengthened Leslie centred on eased congestion – at the Leslie/Eglinton bottleneck and at neighbouring north-south avenues – while arguments against cited ravine destruction. Another report in 1983 and an environmental study in 1984 seemingly had the now $50-million scheme moving forward, with the route involving a high-level bridge over Wilket Creek Park, followed by a road along the CPR Belleville line before emerging at the Bayview Extension near Nesbitt Drive. Citizen groups argued that, if allowed, the Leslie proposal would re-open the Spadina Expressway debate. In 1988, Metro Council voted in favour of the 4-lane extension, but the price had gone up to $74 million dollars. Debate and public consultations continued into the 1990s with no extension built. In 2000 and 2002, Toronto Councillor Jane Pitfield proposed lengthening Redway Road to Bayview. Opponents feared the damage to Crowthers Woods and a rehashing of the Leslie debate, and nothing came of that plan either.
“Planned New Car Lines” The Globe. 19 May 1906: pg 9.
“Open Victoria Street.” The Globe. 15 March 1907: pg 9
“The Extension of Victoria Street.” The Globe. 2 November 1909: pg 6.
“Victoria Street Extension.” The Globe. 14 January 1910: pg 7. – 330,000
“Extend Victoria St Under New Stature.” The Globe. 22 April 1911: pg 9. – 360,000
“Victoria Street Extension Favored.” The Globe. 3 June 1911: pg 8.
“C.P.R. to Keep Building Site.” The Globe. 28 July 1911: pg 8. – half-million
“Many Important Schemes for the Betterment and Growth of Toronto.” Toronto Daily Star. 30 December 1911: pg 5.
Report of the Civic Improvement Committee for the City of Toronto, 1911
“City May Abandon Victoria Extension.” The Globe. 24 February 1912: pg 9.
“Will Try Arbitration.” The Globe. 2 March 1912: pg 4.
“Victoria Street Extension Killed.” The Globe 18 May 1912: pg 9.
“Make Bloor Street Big Business Centre.” The Globe. 20 March 1917: pg 7.
“City Planners Propose New Downtown Streets.” The Globe. 12 March 1929: pg 15
“Work Commissioner R.C. Harris Presents New City-Wide Project.” The Globe. 15 May 1930: pg 13.
“A Bay Street Plan.” The Globe. 17 January 1930: pg 4.
“Victoria Extension Favored by Expert.” The Globe. 21 November 1930: pg 13.
“Report is Requested on Victoria Extension” The Globe. 26 September 1931: pg 14.
“Victoria Street Extension to Davenport Road Talked.” The Globe. 12 February 1935: pg 11.
St. Clair Avenue
“St. Clair Extension.” The Globe. 21 December 1928: pg 2.
“Favor Taylor Proposal St. Clair Ave. Extension.” The Toronto Daily Star. 21 January 1929: pg 3.
“St. Clair Extension Through East York Offer of J.H. Taylor.” The Globe. 21 January 1929: pg 13.
“Problem of Bridges Northeast of City has Many Angles.” The Globe. 5 February 1929: pg 23.
“Hottest Discussion at County Council on Radial Proposal.” The Globe. 7 June 1929: pg 28.
“Easement Offered for Further Link Extending St. Clair.” The Globe. 23 June 1929: pg 13.
“Citizens Reassured on Extension Plans.” The Globe. 22 August 1929: pg 21.
“Action Expected on Moore Avenue Boundary Bridge.” The Globe. 30 July 1929: pg 13.
“Objects to Bridge.” The Globe. 22 August 1929: pg 4.
“The Moore Park Bridge.” The Globe. 7 September 1929: pg 4.
“Residents Agitated By Bridge Question in Northeast Area.” The Globe. 20 September 1929: pg 17.
“M’Bride Declares St. Clair Extension ‘Out of Question’”. The Globe. 21 September 1929: pg 18.
“Scarboro Plans Work on St. Clair to Aid Jobless.” The Globe. 17 December 1930: pg 10.
“Request St. Clair Cross Don Valley.” The Globe and Mail. 31 October 1962: pg 5.
“Urban Renewal Study for Metropolitan Planning Area Covering 750 Square Miles Is Proposed.” The Globe and Mail. 7 February 1963: pg 4.
“Metro Shelves St. Clair Plan.” The Globe and Mail. 9 September 1970: pg 5.
“Promise to Campaign for Industry in Suburbs to Balance Housing Surge.” The Globe and Mail. 30 November 1956: pg 11.
“Site on Cosburn Ave. Urged for Courthouse.” The Globe and Mail. 14 February 1957: pg 4.
“Urge Alternate Site for E. York Court.” The Toronto Daily Star. 14 February 1957: pg 19.
“Reeve Asks Old Railway Be Expressway.” The Toronto Daily Star. 8 March 1957: pg 9.
“Reeve of East York Backs New Buildings.” The Globe and Mail. 3 December 1957: pg 5.
“Conservation at the Polls.” The Globe and Mail. 8 November 1958: pg 6.
“Residents Oppose Cosburn Extension.” The Toronto Daily Star. 6 June 1958: pg 29.
“Metropolitan Toronto: Scratch-My-Backism And the Courthouse.” The Globe and Mail. 26 June 1958: pg 7.
“Expect Hot Contests in Suburbs.” The Globe and Mail. 18 November 1958: pg 5.
“Cosburn Plan Foes Cut Chairman Short.” The Toronto Daily Star. 25 November 1958: pg 9.
“The Suburban Elections.” The Toronto Daily Star. 28 November 1958: pg 29.
“East York Greenbelt Should be Saved.” The Toronto Daily Star. 20 December 1958: pg 29.
“East York Zoning.” The Toronto Daily Star. 11 April 1959: pg 29.
“Suites to Oust Homeowners?” The Toronto Daily Star. 16 April 1959: pg 1.
“Raze Homes for Apartments?” The Toronto Daily Star. 16 April 1959: pg 3.
“It’s Improper, Mr. Venchiarutti.” The Toronto Daily Star. 20 April 1959: pg 29.
“Appraiser’s Kin Swung Land Deal, Probe Told.” The Toronto Daily Star. 21 May 1959: pg 2.
“East York Plan Limits Apartments to 5 ‘Pockets’”. The Toronto Daily Star. 22 June 1960: pg 41
“An East York Dialogue on Conflict of Interest.” The Toronto Daily Star. 19 June 1961: pg 7.
Redway, Alan. East York 1924-1997: Toronto’s Garden of Eden. FriesenPress, 2018.
“Subway Expansion, Restriction on Cars, Sought for Toronto.” The Globe and Mail. 26 March 1968: pg 1.
“Time Needed for Study: Planners delay Flemingdon Scheme.” The Globe and Mail. 21 November 1968: pg 5.
“Transit Can’t Cope: Planners Want to Widen Metro Roads.” The Globe and Mail. 10 July 1976: pg 5.
“Here’s a plan to improve traffic.” The Toronto Star. 29 January 1979: pg A8.
“Alderman Says Extension Won’t Solve Traffic Mess.” The Toronto Star. 31 August 1979: pg A15
“Transport Plan Not Changing: Eggleton.” The Globe and Mail. 11 May 1984: M3.
“Battle Won by War Still Undecided on Extending Leslie past Eglinton.” The Toronto Star. 20 November 1984: pg A25.
“Neighbors Protest Bayview-Leslie Road Plan.” The Globe and Mail. 31 March 1988: pg A16.
“Leslie Extension Sparks Emotional Debate.” The Toronto Star. 13 April 1988: pg A7.
“Leslie Street Debate Resurfaces.” The Globe and Mail. 23 March 1991: pg A9.
“Notice of Public Hearing: Leslie Street Extension on Bayview Avenue Widening.” The Toronto Star. 27 August 1992: pg A26.
“Plan for Leslie Street Extension Scaled Back.” The Globe and Mail. 7 October 2000: pg A27.