Contrary to recent messages out of city hall, almost half of the Gardiner Expressway’s elevated portion will be unsafe to drive on in six years if left as is, the Toronto Star reports.

The newspaper said city engineers have asked for $505 million in capital funding to rebuild the two-kilometre stretch east of Jarvis Street and the section between Strachan Avenue and Rees Street, which is about a kilometre long.

The work, which would create major traffic congestion over the next decade, involves ripping out everything but the steel girders and recreating the roadway.

The report contradicts city hall’s claims that chunks of concrete falling from the Gardiner since the spring indicated only a superficial problem.

But the head of the public works committee Denzil Minnan-Wong said he knew nothing of the structural problems until the past couple of days. He said the city now knows it has to restore the east-west artery.

“We didn’t have a plan to fix the Gardiner Expressway because the previous administration wasn’t investing the money that it needed to,” he told reporters on Thursday. “What this capital budget does is present a plan to fix the Gardiner Expressway so it can be used for decades to come.”

Toronto’s acting director of design and construction John Kelly told the Star that — save for the section between York and Jarvis streets which was replaced in the 1980s — the elevated roadway is close to the end of its life.

So far, he says the city has braced problem areas and the Gardiner is still currently safe to use.

Some councillors suggested part of the problem lay with a 2008 council vote to stop more than $40 million in non-urgent repairs until after an environmental assessment (EA), which was never done.

But at a budget committee meeting on Thursday, Coun. Gord Perks said that work was targeted at the eastern section of the Gardiner, which is separate from the parts mentioned in the Star report.

“Any attempt to conflate those two things is disingenuous and violates the principles by which we make decisions together,” he said.

Perks, a member of the public works committee, also said the EA was shelved without council approval and compared it to Mayor Rob Ford unilaterally cancelling the Transit City plan.

“It’s one thing to have a debate on whether or not to change council’s direction,” Perks said. “It’s another thing to do it by stealth … That is what has happened here and it is wrong.”

The city has spent $13.5 million on the Gardiner this year alone, according to city staff. That total includes $12.2 million for repairs and a $1.3-million design for replacing the elevated portion.