'Quick clear squads' to be a permanent fixture on Toronto's busiest roadways, city says

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Two "quick clear squads" will now be permanently stationed on Toronto's major roadways during the morning rush hour as part of the city's bid to reduce gridlock by clearing blocked roads more efficiently.

Mayor John Tory said Monday that after a successful two-month pilot program, he's decided that the squads will become a key part of Toronto's updated traffic plan moving forward.

The two squads, which will be co-ordinated by the city's traffic services department, include specialized vehicles and trained members that will clear crash scenes quickly while keeping drivers and pedestrians safe.

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"Too often we see lanes of traffic in these key areas blocked by work vehicles, equipment, stalled vehicles and accidents that don't get cleared away quickly," Tory told reporters at a morning news conference.

The quick clear squads will respond to collisions or other traffic obstructions within a half hour, as opposed to the two to three hours on average it takes now, he said.

The pilot program focused specifically on the Gardiner Expressway and the Don Valley Parkway, both infamously slow during rush hour. Tory said the two crews were dispatched 330 times, with an average of about seven calls during each of the morning and afternoon commutes. Nearly 150 of the incidents involved disabled vehicles.

In the past, Toronto police would have to respond to these calls.

Mayor John Tory announced the quick clear squad pilot project as well as the deployment of full-time "traffic wardens" at major intersections in mid-September. (CBC)

Staff also laid 58 charges illegal blocking, most often to contractors who left construction materials blocking a road.

According to Tory, the quick clear squads will be operating during both daily rush hours by early next year, and eventually make the jump to working weekends as well. Their attention will remain primarily on the Gardiner, DVP and major arterial thoroughfares.

"Eventually I want to see these squads on all the major corridors and key roads," he said, adding that money to fund the crews will be included in the 2018 city budget.

While drivers can expect to see some relief from gridlock fairly quickly, Tory stressed that the squads are just one part of a much larger effort to "get the city moving again.

"The problem didn't develop overnight and it won't be solved overnight." he said.

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