Remember when Toronto wanted to Build a Highway through Little Italy?

By Matthew Burpee

Little Italy and Little Portugal By Matthew Burpee

As a follow up to the previous post, Toronto did have expressway plans in the 1950s as ambitious as most American cities, it just didn’t implement them. Get Moving Toronto has a good overview of the various plans, as does Transit Toronto. The most famous unbuilt expressway is the Spadina Expressway, which was partially built.

For me however, the craziest project would have been the Clinton-Christie expressway, which would have been an extension to Highway 400 and was meant to connect it to the Gardiner. The expressway would have swooped through the Junction Triangle, followed Dupont until it got to Christie and then would have cut through the heart of Little Italy, along or through (plans were never finalized) Trinity Bellwoods Park and right down to the lake.

A good look into the thinking behind the expressway plan that would have destroyed a great part of Toronto is provided in the “The Changing City: A Forecast of Planning Issues for the City of Toronto 1956-1980.”

Good planning practices in the 1940s and 1950s dictated that downtowns be served by a ring of expressways. The report provides the diagram below of the proposed expressway ring that inspired the need for the Clinton-Christie expressway and provides an example of what other cities had actually built.

Even the planners in the Changing City were skeptical that the Clinton-Christie corridor was the best choice.

“On the west side of the loop, the North-South Expressway near Christie and Grace Street is too far west to serve downtown well. Would an alignment on Spadina Avenue be more satisfactory? Perhaps the North-South Expressway could be best built on Spadina Avenue as an extension of the Spadina Expressway, making a direct connection with the Gardiner Expressway on the lakeshore. This would take the place of the proposed alignment near Christie and Grace Street, which would…run through an almost totally residential area.”

In the end, the extension never became a priority and wasn’t seriously considered. When Spadina died so did the plan to extend the 400. The only part to survive became what is now Black Creek Drive, built in the 1980s.


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