In 1954, the Metropolitan Toronto (Metro) federation was established. Its mission from the start was to build the infrastructure to support the rapid growth in population of the Toronto area. One of its first priorities was to build an expressway network, which included an expressway through the Don River valley. The first chairman of Metro, Fred Gardiner was a major proponent of building a highway through the valley, since his days in the 1940s with the Toronto and York Planning Board. At the time, engineers felt that building a six-lane roadway was unfeasible due to the two large hills and a narrow valley. Gardiner and Board chairman James Maher personally walked the route through the valley, determining the works that would be needed to put the highway through. "We'll move the railway over a piece. We'll tear down the hill. We'll shift the river over a piece, then we can have the highway through there."
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