Highway markers for Highway 403 and the Queen Elizabeth Way
The current 400-series Highway network in Southern Ontario
|Maintained by Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO)|
|Length:||1,915.3 km (1,190.1 mi)|
|Formed:||July 1, 1952|
The 400-series highways are a network of controlled-access highways throughout the southern portion of the Canadian province of Ontario, forming a special subset of the provincial highway system. They are analogous to the Interstate Highway System in the United States or the Autoroute system of neighbouring Quebec, but under provincial jurisdiction and regulated by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO). Although Ontario had been constructing divided highways for two decades prior to their designation, it wasn't until 1952 when these routes were given 400-series designations. Initially only Highways 400, 401 and 402 were numbered; other designations followed in the subsequent decades.
Modern 400-series highways have high design standards, speed limits of 100 kilometres per hour (60 mph), and various collision avoidance and traffic management systems. 400-series highway design has set the precedent for a number of innovations used throughout North America, including the parclo interchange and a modified Jersey barrier design known as Ontario Tall Wall. As a result, they currently experience the lowest accident and fatality rate comparative to traffic volume in North America.
When the 400-series designations were first applied to Ontario freeways in 1952, several existing routes were in place. Originally inspired by German Autobahns, Thomas McQuesten planned a network of "Dual Highways" across the southern half of the province. The Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) was first, an upgrade to the partially constructed Middle Road in 1934. McQuesten also sought out the economic opportunity that came with linking Toronto to Detroit and New York by divided roadways with interchanges at major crossroads, Although he no longer served as Minister of Highways by the onset of World War II, his ambitious plans would come to fruition in the following decades as Highways 400, 401, 402, 403 (between Woodstock and Hamilton) and 405.
The construction boom that followed World War II resulted in a great number of new freeway construction projects in the province. The Toronto–Barrie Highway (Highway 400), Trans-Provincial Highway (Highway 401), a short expansion of Highway 7 approaching the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia (Highway 402), and an expansion of Highway 27 into part of the Toronto Bypass were all underway or completed by the early 1950s. Seeking a new way to distinguish the controlled-access freeways from the existing two lane King's Highway networks, the Department of Highways created the 400-series designations in 1952. By the end of the year, Highway 400, 401 and 402 were numbered, though only short stubs of their current lengths. Highway 401 was assembled across the province in a patchwork fashion, becoming fully navigable between Windsor and Quebec on November 10, 1964; Highway 400 was extended north to Coldwater on Christmas Eve, 1959; Highway 402 was extended to London between 1972 and 1982.
In addition to this network backbone, plans for additional 400-series highways were initiated by the late 1950s, comprising the Chedoke Expressway (Highway 403) through Hamilton; the Don Valley Parkway Extension (Highway 404) northward from the soon-to-be constructed Toronto expressway; Highway 405 to connect with the American border near St. Catharines; Highway 406 south from St. Catharines to Welland; Highway 407 encircling the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), though not built for another 40 years; Highway 409 to connect Highway 401 with Toronto Pearson Airport; and The Queensway (Highway 417) through Ottawa. The first sections of these freeways were opened in 1963, 1977, 1963, 1965, 1997, 1974, and 1960, respectively.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, additional freeways were planned or built, including Highway 427 in Toronto, Highway 403 through Mississauga, Highway 410 north to Brampton and Highway 416 to connect Highways 401 and 417. Highway 420 was designated in Niagara Falls, though it had been built as part of the QEW in 1941. Other major works included the skyway bridges along the QEW and the expansion of Highway 401 into twelve lane collector-express systems.
By the mid-1980s, the network had more-or-less taken its current shape, with only Highways 407 and 416 not yet built. Instead, emphasis was placed on expanding existing routes to accommodate increasing traffic volumes. However, extensions of Highway 400 towards Parry Sound, Highway 403 between Woodstock and Hamilton, Highway 404 towards Newmarket, and Highway 427 towards Vaughan were underway. By the end of the decade, construction of Highway 407 and Highway 416 had begun, and Highway 410 was expanded from two to four lanes.
Highways 407 and 416 opened in the late 1990s. Until early 2015, Highway 407 and 416 were the most-recently designated (and constructed) freeways in Ontario. This has changed with the designation of Highways 412 and 418. In addition to these new additions to the 400-series network, several extensions of existing freeways have been built or are underway, including Highway 400 to north of Parry Sound in 2010, Highway 404 to Keswick in 2014, four-laning Highway 406 to Welland by 2015, extending Highway 410 north of Brampton in 2009, and Highway 417 to Arnprior in 2012.
While older freeways feature some lapses in safety features, modern 400-series highways feature design speeds of 130 km/h (81 mph), speed limits of 100 km/h (62 mph), various collision avoidance and traffic management systems, and several design standards adopted throughout North America, notably the Ontario Tall Wall median barrier and the Parclo A-4 interchange design, the latter which became standard in the design for the widening of Highway 401 through Toronto in 1962. The Institute of Traffic Engineers subsequently recommended this design to replace the cloverleaf interchange throughout North America. Highways in Ontario have been either the safest or second safest in North America, with 0.63 fatalities per 10,000 licensed drivers in 2010.
Like the US Interstate network, green signs are primarily used to represent interchanges whilst blue signs represents nearby services and attractions. However, there have been cases where blue signs are instead used as interchange signs on privately owned toll highways (i.e. 407 ETR) as well as for collector lanes of an express-collector configuration and also for airport service roadways. The province's baseline standard for the construction of a freeway is an average traffic count of 10,000 vehicles per day. However, other factors are considered as well. To promote economic development in a disadvantaged region (e.g., the current extension of Highway 400 to Northern Ontario), a 400-series highway may be built where the existing highway's traffic counts fall below 10,000. As well, for environmental, budgetary or community reasons, some proposed 400-series highways (e.g., the Highway 400 extension in Toronto from Highway 401 to the Gardiner Expressway that was cancelled in the 1970s) have not been built, even where an existing highway's traffic counts exceed the standard.
|Route||Name(s)||Length (km)||Length (mi)||Southern or western terminus||Northern or eastern terminus||Created||Description||Ref(s).|
|Toronto–Barrie Highway||226||140||Maple Leaf Drive in Toronto
(continues as Black Creek Drive)
|Highway 69 in Carling||July 1, 1952||Scheduled for extension to Sudbury by 2021|||
|Macdonald–Cartier Freeway/ Rt. Hon. Herb Gray Parkway/ Highway of Heroes||817.9||508.2||Ojibway Parkway in Windsor||A-20 towards Montreal, QC||July 1, 1952||Backbone of the 400-series network; busiest highway in the world|
|102.5||63.7||I-69 / I-94 at Canada–United States border on Blue Water Bridge in Point Edward||Highway 401 – London||1953|
|Chedoke Expressway||125.2||77.8||Highway 401 near Woodstock||Highway 401 / Highway 410 in Mississauga||December 1, 1963|||
|50.1||31.1||Highway 401 / DVP – Toronto||Woodbine Avenue − East Gwillimbury||1977|
|General Brock Parkway||8.7||5.4||Queen Elizabeth Way – St. Catharines||I-190 near Lewiston, NY||September 11, 1963|||
|26.0||16.2||East Main Street in Welland||Queen Elizabeth Way in St. Catharines||December 7, 1965|||
|107.3||66.7||Highway 403 / Queen Elizabeth Way – Burlington||Highway 7 – Pickering||June 7, 1997|||
|Belfield Expessway||5.6||3.5||Pearson Airport||Highway 401 – Toronto||August 25, 1978|
|20.3||12.6||Highway 401 / Highway 403 – Mississauga||Highway 10 (Hurontario Street) – Caledon||November 15, 1978|||
|West Durham Link||10||6.2||Highway 401 – Toronto, Whitby||Highway 407||February 6, 2015|
|Veterans Memorial Highway||76.4||47.5||Highway 401 to Kingston||Highway 417 to Ottawa||September 23, 1999|||
|Queensway (within Ottawa)||187.0||116.2||Highway 17 – Arnprior||A-40 (TCH) towards Montreal, QC||1971|||
|East Durham Link||Highway 401 – Toronto, Oshawa||Highway 407||February 6, 2015|
|Niagara Veterans Memorial Highway||3.3||2.1||Regional Road 98 (Montrose Road)||Rainbow Bridge to United States||November 1, 1941|
|19.9||12.4||Queen Elizabeth Way/Gardiner Expressway – Toronto||Regional Road 7 – Vaughan||December 4, 1971|||
|139.1||86.4||Peace Bridge – Buffalo, NY, USA||Highway 427 – Toronto||1931|
High-occupancy vehicle lanes
The MTO began planning for the use of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes with the HOV Opportunities Study, contracted to McCormick Rankin in 2001. This led to the test trial of three HOV lanes in the GTA in December 2005: southbound Highway 404 between Markham and Highway 401, with a dedicated HOV ramp built to connect with westbound Highway 401, and Highway 403 in both directions within Mississauga. Since then, HOV lanes have been opened on several 400-series freeways around the Golden Horseshoe and National Capital Region. In May 2007, the Ministry of Transportation introduced a multi-billion dollar Horseshoe Network Project, which included plans to incorporate HOV lanes into numerous 400-series highways.
By then, work was already advanced on several projects, including the northbound HOV lane on Highway 404 (that opened on July 23, 2007) and an HOV lane along both directions of Highway 403 between Highway 407 and Highway 401. A third pair of HOV lanes has since been introduced to the QEW/403 through Oakville, and a fourth individual HOV lane travels eastbound on Highway 417 from just west of Eagleson Road in Kanata to just east of Moodie Drive.
More than 450 kilometres (280 mi) of HOV lanes are currently proposed for construction by 2031. Future plans include extending existing HOV lanes and introducing them to other 400-series freeways. However, as of October 2014[update], only two projects have been confirmed: Highway 410 between Highway 401 and Queen Street in Brampton, and Highway 427 between Highway 409 and Highway 7. The MTO has stated that HOV lanes will only be introduced through new construction, and that no general purpose lanes will be converted. . The general goals of the project are to help increase highway efficiency (an HOV lane is claimed by the Ontario government to have the ability to move as many people as four general-purpose lanes), reduce congestion, conserve energy and help protect the environment.
During the 2015 Pan American Games and 2015 Parapan American Games held in Toronto, several HOV lanes had their minimum requirements increased from two passengers to three, and some highways had their general purpose lanes converted temporarily to HOV lanes to accommodate increased traffic. These temporary restrictions lasted from June 29 to August 18.
Future HOV lanes
The following table lists planned expansions to the HOV network by 2031.
|Highway||Starting location||Terminating location||General location|
|400||Major Mackenzie Drive W.||Kirby Road/King Road||Region of York|
|Kirby Road/King Road||Highway 9||Region of York|
|401||Mississauga Road||Highway 403||Mississauga|
|404||Highway 7||Aurora Road|
|410||Highway 401||Queen Street (former Highway 7)||Mississauga, Brampton|
|427||Highway 409||Highway 407||near Pearson International Airport in Toronto|
|400||Highway 9||Highway 88/Barrie||Region of York and Simcoe County|
|Brock Road||Ritson Road||Region of Durham|
|403||Highway 6||Highway 407/Queen Elizabeth Way||Hamilton and Burlington|
|404||Aurora Road||Keswick||Region of York|
|410||Highway 401||Queen Street||Brampton|
|QEW||Red Hill Valley Parkway||Highway 406||Hamilton and Region of Niagara|
|Trafalgar Road||Highway 427||Oakville and Mississauga|
- Highways in Ontario
- List of Ontario expressways
- 100-Series Highways of Nova Scotia
- Quebec Autoroutes
- Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (2010). "Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) counts". Government of Ontario. Retrieved September 22, 2014.
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...the freeway concept was promoted by Hamiltonian Thomas B. McQuesten, then the highway minister. The Queen Elizabeth Way was already under construction, but McQuesten changed it into a dual-lane divided highway, based on Germany's new autobahns.
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The new, 22-mile extension from south of Crown Hill to Coldwater will be ready for traffic this afternoon.
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- "Queen Elizabeth Way - Hamilton to Fort Erie". Highway Construction Program 1972-73 (Report). Ministry of Transportation and Communications. April 1972. p. xv.
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- Stamp 1987, pp. 59–61.
- "Chronology". Annual Report (Report). Department of Highways. March 31, 1964. p. 296.
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- "Ottawa Highway Link Opens". Ontario. Toronto Star. Canadian Press. September 24, 1999. p. A4.
- Nikolic, Goran; Pringle, Rob (2008). Evaluating HOV Plans and Priorities – the Case of Expressways in the GTA (PDF) (Report). Transportation Association of Canada. pp. 2–4. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
- Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (May 24, 2015). "McGuinty Government To Improve Commuters Lives With HOV Lane Network". CNW Group. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
- Ministry of Transportation of Ontario. "Ontario’s High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Network Plan for the 400-Series Highways in the Greater Golden Horseshoe". Government of Ontario. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
- "The Big Move - Strategy #3 - Improve the Efficiency of the Road and Highway Network". Metrolinx. Retrieved June 9, 2015.
- Shum, David (June 29, 2015). "HOV Lane Restrictions Now in Effect for Pan Am Games". Global News. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
- Emery, Claire; Ford, Barbara (1967). From Pathway to Skyway. Confederation Centennial Committee of Burlington. pp. 179–182. Retrieved May 3, 2010.
- Shragge, John; Bagnato, Sharon (1984). From Footpaths to Freeways. Ontario Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Historical Committee. ISBN 0-7743-9388-2.
- Stamp, Robert M. (1987). QEW – Canada's First Superhighway. The Boston Mills Press. ISBN 0-919783-84-8.
- '401' The Macdonald–Cartier Freeway. Toronto: Ministry of Transportation and Communications. 1972.
- AADT Traffic Volumes 1955–1969 and Traffic Collision Data 1967–1969. Ontario Department of Highways. 1970.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 400-series highways.|
- Ontario Ministry of Transportation
- Highway Construction Programs
- Photographs and history on the 400-Series Highways (and other provincial highways, too)