Demolition began on a busy downtown off-ramp from the eastbound Gardiner Expressway to York, Bay and Yonge streets this morning.

The ramp was permanently closed early Monday morning and will be torn down to make way for a new smaller ramp to Lower Simcoe Street, which is expected to open in January 2018.

“I’m sorry that people are going to be inconvenienced – drivers, residents and others – by the ramp being demolished,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Monday afternoon.

“The fact is, the ramp had outlived its usefulness and no matter what date we proceeded to demolish the ramp and replace it with a new one, it wouldn’t be a good date.”

The off-ramp, which was more than 50 years old, was officially shut down at 5 a.m. 

“There’s going to be a traffic impact, no question,” said Michael D’Andrea, executive director of engineering and construction services for the city. “I mean this is a pretty significant entry point into downtown core. We’re advising motorists coming into the city to plan your trips accordingly and to be patient.”

But traffic volumes were “extremely light” in both directions along the Gardiner Expressway this morning, likely due to the holiday, said Const. Clint Stibbe, a spokesperson for Toronto police.

“We haven’t seen any collisions in this part of the expressway as of yet. That being said, we’ve seen a couple of close calls. That’s where we need drivers to pay attention to what’s happening ahead of them,” Stibbe added.

“I think something everyone is forgetting about is Spadina has got an access lane to the Lake Shore that is going to help you get off the expressway and into the downtown core as soon as possible.”

Although the Jarvis Street off-ramp was backed up early on Monday morning, the city anticipates traffic will only get worse – with travel times expected to double for commuters. 

“Tomorrow is going to be a full traffic day and will back up quite substantially,” Stibbe said.

“As you can imagine, tomorrow will be a worse day than today and what we are asking is everybody to think ahead, carpool where possible or use public transit.”

The ramp closure also coincides with playoff season for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. 

The Maple Leafs are hosting their first home game in their playoff series against the Washington Capitals tonight.

Motorists heading to the Air Canada Centre to catch the game are urged to use the Jameson Avenue, Spadina Avenue or Jarvis streets ramps to get into the downtown core.