Toronto’s long-abandoned freeway exit looks like a post-apocalyptic movie scene

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Toronto’s gas-powered post-war expansion brought an explosion of road infrastructure construction that permanently altered the city’s layout and social fabric. Or at least semi-permanently, as some aging road infrastructure has disappeared in recent years.

Perhaps most notably, an old Gardiner Freeway off-ramp was recently demolished to make way for a city park. But that’s not the only lost outing in Toronto, and there’s another lurking in plain sight in North York.

The Don Valley Parkway (DVP) was built in three phases between 1958 and 1966, moving from south to north through expanding suburbs. Its final section, from Lawrence Avenue to Sheppard Avenue, opened in 1966 and included a partial cloverleaf at York Mills Road with a trio of on and off ramps.

This north-west on-ramp from York Mills has proven problematic over the years with a much higher accident rate than the south-west and south-east ramps.

York Mills westbound traffic using the northwest ramp was forced to merge with the DVP’s southbound lanes when approaching the southwest exit ramp, causing bottlenecks and frequent crashes .

The ramp was closed to traffic in 2005, while a new berm was constructed along York Mills and a noise barrier added along the DVP, the two combining to effectively conceal the ramp from motorists.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this visit was the complete lack of barriers or fencing beyond the berm.

ramp dvp york mills

In a city where even public restrooms are inaccessible most of the time, it seemed almost certain that there would be at least some disincentives for the public to explore the ramp. But there were no such obstacles. This relic is free to explore for all.

ramp dvp york mills

And with the disused infrastructure mostly hidden in plain sight, it looks like it’s been mostly left to the elements. Native plant life was added by the city after the ramp closed, and nature is gradually reclaiming the old outlet.

ramp dvp york mills

Plant growth grows through the surface of the cracked and broken asphalt road, and even trees take root in the long-forgotten curb of the ramp.

ramp dvp york mills

Old satellite images reveal that a loop of trees was the only plant life present in the ramp during its last years of operation, but after just 17 years of neglect, the space in the loop of the old ramp has transformed into a lush oasis that feels far removed from the busy highway a few feet away.

ramp dvp york mills

Its relative isolation seems to have given the old ramp a new purpose as a dumping ground, with rubbish and other discarded objects clustered along its route.

ramp dvp york millsFor some reason several drums of trash were placed along the ramp.

ramp dvp york mills

It looks like something dangerous at first glance, but they are actually labeled “apple juice concentrate” and apparently filled with sand and gravel.

ramp dvp york mills

As you walk along the surface of the abandoned road, you will come across road signs such as fire hydrants, largely obscured by the dense brush.

ramp dvp york millsYou can also spot the odd reflective yellow warning poles, which have not warned motorists of the ramp’s curved path since 2005.

ramp dvp york mills

Faint streaks of yellow paint are still visible on the shoulder where the cars once passed, along with scattered flakes of broken paint.

ramp dvp york mills

Here, not everything has been left to nature as a small section of the ramp has been torn out for apparent work on a gas pipeline, the buried pipeline marked with yellow flags and covered with rocks.

ramp dvp york mills

A noise barrier now cuts the way to the old ramp where it connected to the DVP all those years ago, cutting through its last few meters of cracked and broken pavement connecting to the freeway.

ramp dvp york mills

Walking the road today is a serene, if not a bit unsettling, experience.

ramp dvp york mills

The noise of DVP traffic fades as you cross the now densely treed ramp, with cars speeding past behind a stuffy noise barrier, adding to the sense of isolation visitors to the ramp can feel.

ramp dvp york mills

It might seem a bit surreal to feel the sturdy, if not slightly less good, infrastructure under your feet, while being surrounded by signs of nature’s relentless perseverance.

ramp dvp york mills

The ramp is no longer useful for traffic, but it serves as a reminder of how quickly man-made objects are recovered once left in the elements.

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