Ontario Highway 21

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Highway 21
Bluewater Highway
Route information
Maintained by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
Length: 226.8 km[2] (140.9 mi)
Existed: May 23, 1927[1] – present
Major junctions
South end:  Highway 402 near Wyoming
   Highway 8 in Goderich
 Highway 9 in Kincardine
North end:    Highway 6 / Highway 10 / Highway 26 in Owen Sound
Location
Major cities: Grand Bend, Goderich, Kincardine, Southampton, Port Elgin, Owen Sound
Highway system
Current highways
←  Highway 20   Highway 23  →
Former highways
    Highway 22  →

King's Highway 21, commonly referred to as Highway 21, is a provincially maintained highway in the Canadian province of Ontario that begins at Highway 402 mid-way between Sarnia and London and ends at Highway 6, Highway 10 and Highway 26 in Owen Sound. The roadway is referred to as the Bluewater Highway because it remains very close to the eastern shoreline of Lake Huron.

Highway 21 was first designated by the Department of Highways (DHO) between Highway 3 and Highway 7 in mid-1927 and extended to Goderich in 1934. A year later, a final extension completed the route to Owen Sound. In 1997 and 1998, the portion of the route south of Highway 402 was transferred to the counties in which it laid.

Highway 21 is often subject to winter closures due to lake effect caused by snowsquall, which can create sudden whiteout conditions along the Lake Huron shoreline. Several Emergency Detour Routes have been established further inland to guide drivers around such closures. Care should be taken during the winter months, as these storms can progress rapidly and unexpectedly.

Route description[edit]

Southbound Highway 21 and northbound Highway 6 are concurrent in Owen Sound; this is the only example of a Wrong-way concurrency in the provincial highway network

Highway 21 is a long lakeside route through southwestern Ontario which serves numerous communities along the eastern shoreline of Lake Huron. Once over 100 kilometres (62 mi) longer than it is today, the highway now begins at Highway 402 near the community of Warwick, where it progresses north through the towns of Forest, Grand Bend, Goderich, Point Clark, Kincardine, Tiverton, Port Elgin, and Southampton. At Southampton, the highway veers away from the Lake Huron shoreline and travels east to Owen Sound.[3]

The route is generally smoothly-flowing, but can be somewhat congested through towns during the summer from tourists and cottagers.[4] Highway 21 is often subject to closures at various points as it lies on the lee shore of Lake Huron. Lake effect snow squalls frequently subject motorists to poor visibility and slippery conditions, leading to whiteout conditions. Because of this, the Ontario Provincial Police claim that the road is the most often closed in the province.[5][6] Highway 23 provides an alternative inland route.[3]

Highway 21 and Highway 6 descend the Niagara Escarpment into Owen Sound

The highway begins at Exit 34 and progresses north towards Lake Huron. This mostly straight section of the route lies within Lambton County and passes through the town of Forest. Near Kettle Point, the route abruptly curves north west and begins to parallel the shore of the lake, providing access to the village of Port Franks and The Pinery Provincial Park prior to entering Grand Bend. North of that village, the highway crosses into Huron County and intersects former Highway 83. Between this point and Goderich, the west side of the highway is dominated by roads providing access to shoreline cottages.[3]

At Goderich, the route encounters Highway 8, then crosses the Maitland River along a bypass constructed during the early 1960s; the original routing followed portions of Saltford Street and River Ridge Crescent. The highway proceeds straight north as the baseline at the shore of Lake Huron until it reaches Sheppardton. There the surveying grid changes orientation, and Highway 21 follows a forced road allowance that meanders approximately 2 km (1.2 mi) inland from lake north to Amberley, where it encounters former Highway 86, which travels to Waterloo, and enters. The route curves northeast as it enters Bruce County to align with the surveying grid and proceeds out of Amberley towards Kincardine.[3]

Highways 21 and 6 form the only wrong-way concurrency in the Ontario highway network

Between Atherley and Tiverton, Highway 21 travels straight-as-an-arrow along what was originally a rural concession road through the hamlets of Reid's Corners, Pine River, Huron Ridge and Slade. It bypasses inland of Kincardine, intersecting the western terminus of Highway 9. Within Tiverton, which acts as the primary town serving Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, traffic must turn to remain on Highway 21. As it exits southeast from the town, the highway makes a broad curve to the northeast and continues through the hamlets of Underwood and North Bruce.[3]

As it approaches the southern end of the Bruce Peninsula, the route bisects Port Elgin, then curves abruptly towards Lake Huron and passes through Southampton before curving to the east towards Owen Sound. Between those two places, the highway is generally straight, except at the boundary between Bruce and Grey Counties as well as the descent of the Niagara Escarpment at Springmount. Several communities line this inland stretch of highway, including Chippewa Hill, Kelly's Corners, Elsinore, Allenford, Alvanley and Jackson. At Springmount, the route encounters Highway 6, which joins Highway 21 to form Ontario's only wrong-way concurrency east to Owen Sound.[3]

History[edit]

Highway 21 in Port Franks at the junction of what was then Highway 82

Highway 21 was the first King's Highway in Lambton County when it was assumed in 1927 between Highway 3 at Morpeth and Highway 7 at Reece's Corners.[7] This original section of highway changed from a mudhole to a plank road circa 1860. When James Miller Williams, a Hamilton businessman, set out one day from during a drought to dig a well, he chose a spot downhill from an existing oil seep in the village of Black Creek. Instead of encountering water, Williams hit a shallow oil deposit. As a result of the ensuing oil-boom, which would begin the petroleum industry in North America, Williams laid out the village and changed its name to Oil Springs. Two competing plank road companies were formed, the Black Creek Plank Road Company (of which Williams was a principal investor) and the Sarnia to Florence Plank Road Company, both of which aimed their roads through Oil Springs. Although both roads were constructed, the former company was more prosperous in its endeavours; in 1886, a significant portion of the Sarnia to Florence Plank Road was closed up and turned over to local property owners. The Black Creek Plank Road Company meanwhile had transformed the muddy quagmire of a path into a well-maintained road. By 1863, three miles of road south of Wyoming had been paved, and the remainder south to Oil Springs planked (the Sarnia Road followed two years later). However, as the oil boom faded, so too did improvement to the road.[8]

Highway 21 near Petrolia. A Bowstring Arch bridge was constructed to replace the existing county-built bridge shortly after the department designated Highway 21.

On May 23, 1927, the Department of Highways assumed the unpaved road between Highway 7 at Reece's Corner and Highway 3 at Morpeth, via Dresden, Thamesville and Ridgetown as Provincial Highway 21;[1] this was changed to the current King's Highway 21 in 1930.[9] That year, the department set out to improve the new highway. Concrete slabs were laid between Petrolia and Highway 7, as well as along a 7.25-kilometre (4.50 mi) section between Thamesville and Dresden. The following year, the route was paved between Dresden and Edys Mills before the effects of the Great Depression forced the department to concentrate on paving Highway 22.[10] The election of a new government in mid-1934 led to the resumption of work in June as a depression relief project. New equipment (namely a Caterpillar Excavator), as well as the expertise of Andy Newman, an engineer who was hired when he demonstrated his abilities with the machinery upon passing a construction site on his drive home. Newman, who helped design the machine that nobody else could operate, allowed work to proceed at a much faster rate than before. The machinery could dig quicker than 50 men, and this effort showed when the gap between Petrolia and Edys Mills and the remaining gaps between Dresden and Thamesville were graded and paved by the end of the summer.[11] On October 19, 1934, Highway 21 was officially opened by Robert Mellville Smith, deputy minister of the Department of Highways.[12]

On April 4, 1934, Highway 21 was assumed through Huron County as far north as Goderich. This was followed by the assumption of a section through Bosanquet Township on April 18, creating a 40.6 kilometres (25.2 mi) concurrency with Highway 7 from Reece's Corners to Thedford. From there, the route travelled through Thedford to Port Franks, where it merged into the present highway.[13] A final 137.4-kilometre (85.4 mi) extension to Owen Sound was assumed on May 15, 1935,[14] bringing the highway to its greatest length of 333.1 kilometres (207.0 mi).[15]

Excavation work to bypass Highway 21 north of the Maitland River near Goderich

Meanwhile, on April 11, 1934, the department assumed control of a road connecting Highway 7 with Forest as Highway 21A.[13] It was later extended to connect with Highway 21 at Port Franks on August 19, 1936.[16] By 1938, Highway 21A had been renumbered as Highway 21, and Highway 21 through Thedford renumbered as Highway 82.[17]

Beginning in 1960, a small bypass of Highway 21 was constructed on the north side of Goderich,[18] avoiding a nearby hairpin turn.[19] The 160 m (520 ft) curving structure over the Maitland River was completed in mid-1961 at a cost of C$1.39 million and opened ceremoniously on July 17, 1962.[20][21]

During the early 1980s, the construction of Highway 402 east from Sarnia resulted in a shift in the route of the highway. The route was extended north from Reece's Corners to Exit 25, while the section from Highway 7 north to Exit 34 was "downloaded", or transferred to the local municipality in which it resided.[22] Further transfers were performed in 1997 and 1998. On April 1, 1997, the section of Highway 21 from Highway 401 south to Morpeth was transferred to Kent County.[23] On January 1, 1998, the section between Highway 401 and Highway 402 was transferred to Kent and Lambton counties.[24]

Major intersections[edit]

The following table lists the major junctions along Highway 21, as noted by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario.[2] 

Division Location km[2] Mile Destinations Notes
Chatham–Kent Morpeth −100.0  Highway 3 – Leamington, St. Thomas, Blenheim This section of Highway 21 was downloaded in 1997/1998
Lambton −9.3  Highway 402 – Sarnia Beginning of former Highway 402 concurrency; Exit 25
0.0 0.0  Highway 402 – London End of former Highway 402 concurrency; Exit 34
Forest 10.4 6.5 Hickory Creek Bridge Beginning of Forest Connecting Link agreement
14.0 8.7 Northern town limits of Forest; end of Connecting Link agreement
Lambton Shores 20.8 12.9 County Road 7 (Lakeshore Road)
30.8 19.1 County Road 79 south (Northville Road) – Thedford Formerly Highway 79
Huron Grand Bend 43.8 27.2 Southern town limits of Grand Bend; beginning of Connecting Link agreement
46.4 28.8 Northern town limits of Grand Bend; end of Connecting Link agreement
Brewster 49.0 30.4 County Road 83 (Dashwood Road) – Exeter Formerly Highway 83
St. Joseph 58.3 36.2 County Road 84 (Zurich–Hensall Road) – Zurich Formerly Highway 84
Bayfield 74.3 46.2 County Road 3 (Mill Road) – Seaforth
Goderich 92.0 57.2 Huckins Street Northern town limits of Goderich; beginning of Goderich Connecting Link agreement
93.7 58.2  Highway 8 (Huron Road) – Clinton
94.8 58.9 Gloucester Terrace Northern town limits of Goderich; end of Goderich Connecting Link agreement
Dunlop 98.4 61.1 County Road 25 (Blyth Road) – Blyth
Kintail 118.0 73.3 County Road 20 (Belgrave Road) – Belgrave
Amberley 128.3 79.7 County Road 86 – Waterloo, Wingham Formerly Highway 86
Bruce Kincardine 145.1 90.2  Highway 9 (Broadway Street) – Walkerton
157.1 97.6 County Road 15 west – Inverhuron
162.1 100.7 County Road 15 east
Port Elgin 179.9 111.8 Southern town limits of Port Elgin; beginning of Connecting Link agreement
184.1 114.4 Northern town limits of Port Elgin; end of Connecting Link agreement
Saugeen Shores 186.2 115.7 County Road 3 – Burgoyne
Southampton 186.8 116.1 South Street Southern town limits of Southampton; beginning of Connecting Link agreement
192.1 119.4 Craig Street Northern town limits of Southampton; end of Connecting Link agreement
Arran–Elderslie 207.3 128.8 County Road 10 south – Tara
210.3 130.7 County Road 10 north – Hepworth
Grey Georgian Bluffs
Springmount 221.4 137.6  Highway 6 north – Wiarton
County Road 18 south
Pottawattamina River Bridge; formerly Highway 70; beginning of the sole wrong-way concurrency in Ontario
Owen Sound 226.8 140.9    Highway 6 / Highway 10 / Highway 26 south/east – Chatsworth, Collingwood End of wrong-way concurrency
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi
  •       Closed/former

References[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing

Footnotes
  1. ^ a b Whipp 1983, p. 31.
  2. ^ a b Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (2008). "Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) counts". Retrieved February 16, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Peter Heiler Ltd (2010). Ontario Back Road Atlas (Map). pp. 13, 20, 26, 38–39, section Z10–T19. ISBN 978-1-55198-226-7.
  4. ^ Wright, Heather (September 12, 2011). "Looking for Traffic Solutions in Grand Bend". Sarnia and Labton County This Week. Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  5. ^ Dadson, Liz (January 2, 2011). "MTO needs to make winter improvements along Highway 21". Saugeen Times. Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  6. ^ LeBlanc, John. "Talkback: Your Picks for Canada's 10 Most Dangerous Roads". MSN Auto. Retrieved June 25, 2012. 
  7. ^ Whipp 1983, p. 1.
  8. ^ Whipp 1983, pp. 9–13.
  9. ^ A.A. Smith (March 31, 1932). "King's Highways, Ontario". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. p. 15.
  10. ^ Whipp 1983, p. 32.
  11. ^ Whipp 1983, pp. 33–35.
  12. ^ Whipp 1983, p. 35.
  13. ^ a b "Appendix 4 - Schedule of Assumptions and Reversions". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. March 31, 1935. p. 119.
  14. ^ "Appendix 4 - Schedule of Assumptions and Reversions". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. March 31, 1936. p. 49.
  15. ^ Ontario Department of Highways (1938–39). Ontario Road Map (Map). Section Mileage Tables.
  16. ^ "Appendix 4 - Schedule of Assumptions and Reversions". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. March 31, 1937. p. 51.
  17. ^ Ontario Department of Highways (1938–39). Ontario Road Map (Map). Cartography by C.P. Robins. Section F9–G10.
  18. ^ "Operations Branch - Construction - Southwestern Area". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. March 31, 1961. p. 27.
  19. ^ Google Inc. "Original Highway 21 Alignment North of Goderich". Google Maps (Map). Cartography by Google, Inc. http://maps.google.ca/maps/ms?hl=en&gl=ca&ptab=2&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=208581402840080038982.0004a9726f3048300dde6. Retrieved August 1, 2011.
  20. ^ "District No. 3—Stratford - Construction". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. March 31, 1962. p. 77.
  21. ^ Information Section (July 16, 1962). "New Route of Highway 21 at Goderich" (Press release). Department of Highways. 
  22. ^ Ministry of Transportation and Communications (1982–83). Ontario Road Map (Map). Cartography by C.P. Robins. Section G–H19, L18.
  23. ^ Highway Transfers List (Report). Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. April 1, 1997. p. 5.
  24. ^ Highway Transfers List - “Who Does What” (Report). Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. June 20, 2001. pp. 7–8.
Bibliography
  • Whipp, Charles (1983). Road to Destiny: A History of Highway 21. Petrolia, Ontario: Lambton Editorial Associates.