Tunnel vision jokes unavoidable as Rocco Rossi proposes an underground extension of the Allen Expressway

Tunnel vision jokes unavoidable as Rocco Rossi proposes an underground extension of the Allen Expressway

June 4, 1971—the last we thought we'd heard of the Spadina Expressway, until now 

The Toronto mayoral race is shaping up to be a sprint between candidates proposing the biggest, most expensive projects that involve digging underground. Today, Rocco Rossi upped the ante by proposing what could be the most expensive proposal yet in a race that’s been dominated by expensive proposals: Rossi wants to extend the Allen Expressway all the way south to the Gardiner, tunnelling underneath the city to get there.

The proposal is audacious but woefully short on details. The Rossi campaign has sent out two releases today, and neither gives even a ballpark figure for the cost, though they do talk about it running “as little as $105 million per kilometre.” That’s all well and good, but the most famous example of tunnelling run amok is Boston’s Big Dig, which will end up costing something like $2.6 billion per kilometre (not including debt charges).

The most interesting part of Rossi’s plan is the admission that road tolls might be part of the solution, at least in this case. “I’m totally opposed to tolls on assets that taxpayers have already paid for, like the Gardiner or the DVP,” says Rossi. “But for new assets, the option of tolls absolutely has to be on the table.”  Doesn’t that risk creating a freeway for the rich while working-class commuters are stuck on the DVP or 427? “There’s no silver bullet,” says Rossi. “This is part of an integrated transit strategy.” That presumably includes Rossi’s plan to build subways after selling Toronto Hydro.

Perhaps a bigger problem for Rossi is that he’s also digging up one of the legendary fights that the city of Toronto endured in the 1960s and ’70s over the Spadina Expressway. Likely the nastiest fight that Toronto saw until the Amalgamation War of 1997, the Stop Spadina campaign is still remembered by baby boomers as a great cause, featuring such heroic commanders as Gen. Jane Jacobs and Lt. Col. Marshall McLuhan. Rossi says he agreed with the original decision to stop the Spadina at Eglinton, but noted, “We don’t live in the Toronto of the 1960s and ’70s anymore. We can put our heads in the sands, or put a shovel in the sands.”

The reviews are starting to come in, and it isn’t pretty for Team Rocco so far: Adam Vaughan calls it “one of the strangest, most absurd ideas” he has heard, according to the Star, and Spacing‘s John Lorinc says the proposal is so bizarre he puts Rossi in the fringe candidate column now.

• Rossi pledges to tunnel Allen under downtown if elected [Globe and Mail]
• “Welcome To The Toronto Tunnel,” Says Rocco Rossi [Rocco Rossi for Mayor]
• Toronto Tunnel Q&A [Rocco Rossi For Mayor]
• Rossi has tunnel vision for Toronto [CBC News]
• Rossi promises traffic tunnel to link Allen Expressway to downtown [Toronto Star]
• LORINC: Rossi’s newest tunnel vision [Spacing Toronto]