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Province's Pan Am Games transportation plan could mean gridlock for drivers

The province presented its plans to fight gridlock during next year’s Pan Am and Parapan Games but some think it may lead to greater traffic holdups.

Next summer 7,500 athletes, 4,000 members of the media, 1.4 million spectators and 23,000 volunteers will converge in Toronto during July and August for the international event.

On Monday the Ministry of Transportation announced its $61-million plan for shuttling all those people to events.

“We have the plan that will keep our region moving and make the games a wonderful success,” Ontario’s transportation minister Steven Del Duca said.

The plan includes a 1,500-kilometre route linking venues, airports and the athletes’ village as well as roughly 185 kilometres of new, temporary high-occupancy (HOV) lanes on major highways, including the Don Valley Parkway, and thoroughfares in the GTA.

The HOV lanes will be designated for the use of athletes, Games vehicles, accredited media, emergency vehicles, electric vehicles, public transit, and taxis as well as any car carrying more than three people

But with all the major routes across the GTA already experiencing gridlock on a daily basis, commuters are concerned with how much worse their drive will get.

Del Duca said he wouldn’t comment on a possible increase in drive time due to increased traffic on the roads but says some planning ahead may be necessary.

“It’s always really important to plan ahead, for people to look at the routes they’re going to be driving on or travelling on, for them to be prepared for the possibility that there may be challenges along the way,” he said. “I’m not going to comment on what’s taking place necessarily on one particular route or another. What I know is, the team at MTO has worked very hard.”

Mayor-elect John Tory says he will be discussing the plans with officials to make sure the impact on commuters is minimal.

“We want the Pan Am Games to be a success in every way but we also have to carry on business in the city,” said Tory. “People have to carry on their lives and whatever the plans are, they certainly have to be passed on by me as the mayor-to-be, and I would think other public officials, to make sure we are not grinding our city to a halt.”

The transportation plan also includes service level changes on the TTC including changes to traffic signal timing, capacity will also be increased, service hours prolonged for certain events and new direct connections added.

However, those who live and work in Toronto are being encouraged to carpool, cycle or walk- and avoid travelling during rush hour.

The province is also launching a route-planning app for phones and computers to show people how to best get to the 30 Pan Am and 12 Parapan venues and inform them of real-time traffic conditions.

The Pan Am Games will run from July 7 to 26. The Parapan Am Games will run from Aug. 7 to 15.

With files from The Canadian Press