Allen Road

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W. R. Allen Road
Allen Road highlighted in red
Route information
Maintained by City of Toronto
Length7.3 km (4.5 mi)
HistoryProposed during the 1950s as the Spadina Expressway, initial sections completed in 1964, completed to Eglinton in 1976
Major junctions
South endEglinton Avenue
North endKennard Avenue (continues as Dufferin Street)
Major citiesToronto
Highway system
  • Roads in Toronto
Ontario Municipal Expressways
← Don Valley Parkway
Allen Road
Black Creek Drive →

William R. Allen Road, also known as Allen Road and the Allen, is a short expressway and arterial road in Toronto, Ontario. It starts as a controlled-access expressway at Eglinton Avenue West, heading north to just south of Transit Road, then continues as an arterial road north to Kennard Avenue, where it continues north as the northern portion of Dufferin Street. Allen Road is named after late Metro Toronto chairman William R. Allen and is maintained by the City of Toronto. Landmarks along the road include the Lawrence Heights housing project, Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Downsview Park, and Downsview Airport (formerly CFB Downsview). A section of the Toronto subway Line 1 Yonge–University is located within its median from Eglinton Avenue to north of Wilson Avenue, and briefly runs parallel to it underground in the vicinity of Sheppard Avenue.

The portion south of Sheppard Avenue was originally constructed as part of the Spadina Expressway project. The Spadina Expressway was a proposed north–south freeway, intended to connect downtown Toronto to the suburb of North York and to serve the Yorkdale Shopping Centre project. It was only partially built before being cancelled in 1971 due to public opposition. It was proposed in the mid-1950s as part of a network of freeways for Metro Toronto. Its cancellation prompted the cancellation of the rest of the network.

Route description[edit]

Allen Road, looking north from Glencairn Avenue.
Allen Road at Eglinton Avenue West. A 1 m (3 ft 3 in) strip of land was purchased south of Eglinton by the City of Toronto,[1] preventing the expressway from being extended.

The road begins at Eglinton Avenue West with two separate signalized intersections with the street. The northbound lanes intersect with Eglinton to the east of Eglinton West station, and the two southbound lanes connect to Eglinton Avenue west of the station. The road proceeds north to Lawrence Avenue West as a four-lane freeway with a speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph) in the northerly direction until 500 m (1,600 ft) north of Eglinton Avenue. The tracks of Line 1 Yonge–University are situated between the roadways in a cut-out section of land, with grass and trees on either side.

The roadway intersects with Lawrence Avenue West with on- and off-ramps which are signalized. Lawrence West station and bus terminals are located between the two roadways. North from Lawrence Avenue, the roadway is six lanes, with a speed limit of 80 km/h (50 mph). The Allen is connected to Yorkdale Road by on- and off-ramps. Yorkdale station is located between the two roadways and over the Yorkdale connecting ramps. For a short stretch, the Allen is eight lanes, the lanes connected to the Yorkdale Road exits. On either side of the road through this stretch concrete retaining walls were built on both sides.

The Allen proceeds on bridges over the lanes of the 401, with ramps from the Allen to 401 passing overhead. The interchange also serves to connect Yorkdale Road with the 401. The exit from the northbound Allen to the 401 serves as a ramp to both directions of the 401, with two lanes proceeding north of the 401. Similarly, two lanes are provided southbound over the 401, and access from the eastbound and westbound 401 merges with the Allen south of Yorkdale Road. Access to Yorkdale Road from the eastbound 401 is provided at the partial Dufferin Street interchange to the west. The southbound ramp from the Allen to the eastbound 401 flies over the whole interchange and connects with the eastbound 401 collector lanes. The interchange is one of the few on Highway 401 that uses conventional light poles instead of high-mast lighting due to the nearby Downsview Airport.[citation needed] The subway is situated on bridges over the 401 between the northbound and southbound lanes.

From north of the 401, the Allen is four or six lanes, passes over Wilson Avenue (with Wilson station being above the namesake avenue within Allen Road's median), and meets with Transit Road at a signalized intersection. The subway diverges from the route just north of Wilson Avenue, with a large subway yard and bus garage, known as Wilson Yard, to the west of the road. Just south of Transit Road, a partial interchange with Wilson Heights is provided. It was the former northern terminus of the road until 1982. North of Transit Road, Allen Road is an arterial road of four or six lanes, meeting Sheppard Avenue West at a signalized intersection. The subway line, now underground, returns to follow the road's alignment just south of Sheppard West station on the east side of the intersection, with the bus terminal being on the southeast corner of Sheppard. The line continues north of the road under a grass berm, then curves west to cross under it and leave the corridor. Allen Road's speed limit through this section is 70 km/h (43 mph). It continues north, still maintaining the higher speed limit with signalized intersections at Rimrock and Kennard Avenue. The road becomes Dufferin Street north of Kennard Avenue.


Road Emergency Services Communications Unit cameras are found on the roadway in nine locations:[2]

  • Eglinton
  • Elmridge
  • Viewmount
  • Glengrove
  • Lawrence West
  • Highway 401
  • Transit Road
  • Sheppard Avenue West
  • Finch Avenue West


Spadina Expressway[edit]

The Spadina Expressway was a proposed expressway intended to run from north of Highway 401 into the downtown of Toronto via the Cedarvale and Nordheimer Ravines and Spadina Road. Various versions of the proposal showed it starting to the north of North York at today's highway 407, between Bathurst and Dufferin Streets. It then travelled south to meet highway 401 a half-mile east of Dufferin. It was cancelled due to public opposition, although not before the northern section was started and the expropriation of a number of homes.

The interchange at the 401 evolved over time to a complex 26 bridge interchange, the most-complex in Ontario to that time. The Spadina was envisioned at first to provide access to the Yorkdale development from the 401, with a four-lane road. While the Spadina was being planned, the 401 highway was being developed into the present-day 12-lane highway and the Spadina was being revised to a six-lane highway to downtown, with a subway line in the middle. It cost CA$13 million in 1960s dollars to build, after being initially estimated to cost $1 million.

From the 401 south to Eglinton, the roadway was to be in a trench, with the rapid-transit line in the middle. South of Eglinton, it continued into the Cedarvale Park below ground level. The route south of Eglinton was never built and several variations of the plan were proposed. Plans were initially for the road to be on the surface of the ravines and the subway below the surface, at least as far as Spadina Road with a tunnel under St. Michael's College north of St. Clair. Another plan projected the roadway to be completely underground also for this stretch, on top of the subway line. From Spadina Road south of St. Clair and further south, the roadway would be underground to Davenport Road, opening into an interchange on Davenport Road.

The stretch from Davenport south was also not built. "No highway" routes proposed rebuilding Spadina Road and Madison Avenue south to Bloor Street as arterial roads. The highway plan proposed a highway width from Spadina's west side to Madison's east side, in an exposed trench south to Bloor Street. If a Crosstown Expressway were to be built then the Davenport interchange might not have been built and a Crosstown interchange instead.

Various proposals for the Spadina south of Bloor Street were made. The 1969 functional design proposed an express route in the centre of the Spadina Avenue, and parallel two-lane streets on either sides to provide access to the businesses. Other proposals included no highway south of Sussex Street, just north of Harbord.

1943–61: Planning for the route[edit]

Approved route of Spadina Expressway

By the 1940s, urban development extended past the City of Toronto's borders. It was recognized within the planning department of the city that population growth would take place and that the farmlands outside of the City's border would be developed. In 1943, the City of Toronto Planning Board developed a plan for the area within a nine-mile radius of Yonge Street and Queen Street. It included a network of superhighways that included the Spadina Expressway.[3]

In November 1947, the Toronto City Planning Board presented a plan to the City of Toronto Civic Work Committee for two new arterial roads: one along the lakeshore running east-west and another running north–south to the west of downtown. The lakeshore route was at first abandoned, while the north–south route was approved. The Spadina Road project would be a new road from Front Street at the south, to St. Clair Avenue to the north, along the route of the existing Spadina Avenue and Spadina Road. The "jog" at Bloor Street connecting the two existing roads would be straightened, the existing Spadina Road widened, and a new cut of the Davenport Road escarpment would be made, taking the road to St. Clair Avenue.[4] The proposal was added to the January 1, 1948, municipal election, where it was approved narrowly by the voters by a vote of 34,261 to 32,078.[5] While the proposal was adopted, the narrow approval led councillors of the time to hold off on approval of construction.[6]

A proposal for a highway from the northwest to downtown was developed in 1949 by the Toronto and Suburban Planning Board, part of a plan for numerous expressways in the Toronto area, including the "Lakeshore Expressway" (the eventual Gardiner Expressway) and Don Valley Parkway highways. It was initially to be named "North West Drive", or "Spadina Road Extension". The route was laid out by two members of the board, future Metro chairman Fred Gardiner and James P. Maher, chairman of the Toronto Planning Board.[7] The proposal died when York Township rejected the idea.[8]

When Metropolitan Toronto (Metro) was formed in 1954, one of its first priorities was highway building. Metro proposed building routes into and out of downtown, as well as encircle the downtown with an "expressway ring." The routes of the Lakeshore and Don Valley expressways were less controversial and allowed to proceed, while others such as the Crosstown, Scarborough and Spadina Expressways were put off for further study. The other expressways planned to cut through developed areas, and were also considered to be needed less urgently.[9] A parallel development to extend the provincial Highway 400 was proposed to the west, to connect to the Lakeshore Expressway in the area of Fort York.[citation needed]

In 1959, the Spadina Expressway became part of the Metro official transportation plan.[citation needed] The original plan intended to connect a "Highway 403 bypass" in the vicinity of today's Highway 407 in the city of Vaughan south through the borough of North York, just east of Downsview airport, then south between Dufferin Street and Bathurst Street as far south of Eglinton.[citation needed] The highway would have gone into a ravine as far south as St. Clair Avenue through the borough of York. It would then enter Toronto proper, going directly south through the Annex neighbourhood, connecting to an east-west "Crosstown Expressway" south of Dupont Street, and ended at the intersection of Bloor Street and Spadina Avenue. Spadina Avenue would be reconstructed with express lanes in the middle all the way south to the waterfront.[citation needed]

The project planned a rapid-transit line in conjunction with the expressway.[citation needed] It would operate above ground north of Eglinton Avenue, and travel underground south to connect at Spadina station of the Bloor–Danforth line. The above-ground section was situated between the lanes of the highway.

1961–62: Proposal and approval[edit]

The expressway was considered critical for the development of the planned $42 million Yorkdale Shopping Centre, southwest of the Spadina-401 interchange. At one point, the Yorkdale development was under the threat of cancellation without the approval to proceed with the Spadina. Only after Metro Council formally approved the whole Spadina project in 1962, did the land owners T. Eaton Co. Limited and developers Webb and Knapp (Canada) Limited announce construction.[10] The interchange of the 401 with today's William R. Allen Road has connections with the private roadways of Yorkdale.

Estimates of the cost were first determined in 1961, of $65 million, with construction to proceed from 1967 until 1970. At that time, Metro and Toronto were in discussions about the route south of Dupont Street, as to whether it would be an elevated highway or at ground level in that section.[11]

On December 12, 1961, Metro Council first approved the Spadina Expressway project, committing $5 million in a 13–8 vote. This covered the cost of the first section from Highway 401 to Lawrence Avenue. At the same time Council put off approving the whole route and voted 19–2 to delete the Crosstown Expressway from the transportation plan.[12]

The plan proposed the most-complex highway interchange attempted in Ontario to that point. It covers 40 hectares (99 acres).

Opposition to the project started before construction began. In 1960, members of the Cedarvale Ratepayers Association disrupted meetings of the Metro Toronto Roads Committee discussing the project.[13] York Township, which became the Borough of York, opposed the construction of the highway through its municipality, and through the York Township-owned Cedarvale Ravine, characterized as "the only park area west of Bathurst Street and north of St. Clair Avenue available to serve 100,000 citizens", and members of the Association proposed a study of the need for the expressway, and to suggest studying the route of Dufferin Street instead.[13] The Roads Committee turned down their requests. York Township threatened to go to the Supreme Court of Canada to block Metro from taking their park. Metro Chairman Fred Gardiner opined, "I can't see how anyone would allow one of 13 municipalities to block an expressway."[14]

As the route of the proposed Crosstown Expressway was being drawn up at the same time, neighbouring residents of Rosedale opposed the construction of the Crosstown Expressway intended to connect to the Spadina, through their neighbourhood. Routing of the Crosstown was proposed along Dupont Street in the area, although the City of Toronto proposed a routing north of the railway lines, closer to Davenport. The Crosstown would continue east through the Rosedale neighbourhood to connect to the Don Valley Parkway.

In 1961, Metro Roads Committee held meetings to hear submissions on the routing of the expressway. Forest Hill Village objected to the proposed route of the expressway though the village, as the village would suffer "serious economic loss" according to Reeve Laurie T. Simonsky. The road and the interchange at Eglinton Avenue would require the demolition of 276 buildings and bisect the village. Forest Hill proposed a tunnel from the Cedarvale Ravine north, under Forest Hill.[15] Gardiner, former reeve of Forest Hill, admitted that the project would be harmful to the village, "but there is urgent need for an expressway to serve the northwest Metro area" and that the route through the village was the only one that would allow the expressway to enter the Cedarvale Ravine.[15]

In June 1961, the section of the Spadina Expressway south of the Crosstown Expressway was cancelled. The Spadina would now terminate at an interchange with the Crosstown, and Spadina Road north of Bloor Street would be widened. This ended a dispute between the City of Toronto and Metro Toronto. Metro wanted to build an expressway through to the Gardiner, while the city wanted to build an expressway further west, in the vicinity of Christie Street, which would connect the Crosstown to the Gardiner.[16] The plan to build down Spadina Avenue would have demolished 1 Spadina Crescent, in the centre of Spadina, just north of College Street.

Opponents to the expressway started organizing. Ratepayers Associations banded together to object to the municipal expressway plan, forming the Coordinating Committee of Toronto Ratepayers Associations and the Metro Ratepayers Transportation Committee. The ratepayers objected to the $400 million municipal expressway plan as expensive and "unleashing a torrent of private passenger vehicles into the city centre." University of Toronto professor James Acland of the Rathnelly Residents Association spoke of the futility of combining rapid transit and expressways on one route. "They won't persuade anyone to park his car and take rapid transit when there is a wonderful expressway inviting him to drive downtown." S. A. Hudson, president of the Lawrence Heights Ratepayer Association cited figures showing the roadway would carry 10,000 vehicles into the core at rush hour, requiring 69 acres (28 ha) for parking alone.[17] The group placed ads in newspapers prior to the December 12, 1961, vote of Metro Council on the Spadina and Crosstown expressways, urging the rejection of the plan. The pressure was partially effective as Council voted 19–2 to delete the Crosstown, but approved the first stage of the Spadina by 13–8, while putting off approval of the downtown route.[12]

The vote put the whole project in doubt. At the time the province paid for half of the cost of roadways, but it did not contribute to rapid transit. The province before approving any road funds for the project, wanted Council approval for the whole project, while the vote covered only the Lawrence to Highway 401 section, including the interchange. The province's transportation minister, William Goodfellow, wrote to Metro Council to state that since Metro had not voted to approve the whole project, that the province would not consider connecting Spadina with Highway 401.[18]

The vote to have Metro's Road Committee study the route south of Lawrence, led to the Roads Committee to hold public hearings. North York Council voted unanimously to fight for approval of the whole project. Councillor Irving Paisley blamed that downtown business interests were behind opposition to the project. "The whole scheme is being jeopardized by several organizations with political strings, local grievances or selfish aims."[19] Paisley organized a campaign to support the building of the project, together with the Yorkdale developer Webb and Knapp. Paisley himself wrote the submissions of 8 of the 25 North York ratepayer associations in favour of the project, including the submissions of some associations that were defunct.[20] Employees of the Yorkdale developer started a letter-writing campaign, and Paisley and Webb and Knapp collaborated on submissions.[21]

Hearings heard deputations from more than 30 ratepayer associations. Strong support was heard from North York associations and opposition was mostly from York, Forest Hill and the City of Toronto associations.[22] Opponents also proposed a $10 auto tax and $25 truck tax to pay for the cost of Metro expressways instead of paying the costs from property taxes and wanted Metro to finish the Gardiner and Don Valley expressways before starting any others.[23] York Reeve William Saunders became a staunch opponent of the project, publicly announcing that York would fight the project in court. York's Cedarvale Park was in the path of the project and by law, the lands could not be taken by Metro without York's consent.[24] The Roads Committee asked the Metro Legal Committee to look into proposing provincial legislation to get the lands.[22]

On February 19, 1962, Metro Roads Committed approved the whole project by a 5–1 vote, the only dissenter being future Toronto Mayor William Dennison. The meeting was picketed by opponents with signs proclaiming "Spadina Expressway No!", "Taxes at Critical Level" and "We are Watching How You Vote." The committee also recommended removing the Crosstown from the plan. Metro Chairman William R. Allen, whom the road would ultimately be named after, spoke in favour of the project based on the rapid transit portion of the project, which included commuter parking lots at northern stations. "If this does not get the motorist out his vehicle and back to rapid transit, Metro Council cannot be blamed."[25]

On March 6, 1962, the full Metro Council voted 14–8 to approve the whole project, with the Lawrence to 401 section to start construction in 1964. The approval would allow Metro to purchase lands for the project, but approval to actually construct the highway would not take place until the 1967 budget.[26] By this time, opposition had developed on several points:

  • the high cost of the project, and the tax burden,
  • putting the highway through a section of Cedarvale Park,
  • building the Spadina will make the Crosstown inevitable, leading to further demolitions in the city,
  • property owners whose properties would be affected,
  • the addition of more cars to the downtown.

Source: Globe and Mail editorial, March 9, 1962[27]

1963–69: Construction[edit]

By 1963, costs had risen to over $73 million for the plan. Metro, which was also constructing the Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway and Bloor–Danforth subway lines had fallen under the scrutiny of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) over its spending. The OMB had to approve the 1963 budget before Metro could. The Spadina was separated from the 1963 budget, and the OMB held hearings into the project. In submissions to the OMB, the townships of Forest Hill and York again objected. CCTTRA, and the CCTRA noted its objections. Allan Ackman, of the Wellesley-Bloor Street ratepayers asked "what compensation is there for all the people will be exposed to the deadly poisonous clouds of fumes from the cars on it?" The Cedarvale ratepayers had obtained the advice of Lewis Mumford on matters of town planning and stated that the expressway was of no use without the cancelled Crosstown. Publisher Allan Perly objected to Yorkdale being such a beneficiary. The Deer Park ratepayers objected on the increases of taxation.[28] The OMB upheld the Spadina project. The OMB stated in its decision that the "sectional interest must give way to the public need of the larger area." On the issue of the ravine parklands, the OMB stated "The board should and does expect that any park land that may be lost to York Township as a result of this undertaking will be replaced, insofar as may be possible in the circumstances, by suitable alternative lands for that purpose."[29]

Construction started in 1963 with the clearing of the route. The area north of Lawrence Avenue was open land. South of Lawrence, dozens of homes were demolished. Coinciding with the opening of the Yorkdale mall, an interim roadway was opened from Lawrence north to Yorkdale Road in 1964.

In 1964, Metro released another transportation plan, which extended the Spadina south of Bloor, again requiring the demolition of homes south of Davenport. Toronto City Council adopted an Official Plan opposing the Crosstown Expressway and the Christie Expressway completely. Ontario's Minister of Municipal Affairs overruled the city, and modified the city's Plan to allow for the construction of both expressways.[30] The City and Metro were now in disagreement.

In 1966, the section from Lawrence Avenue north to Wilson Avenue opened. Construction then started on the section south to Eglinton Avenue. York Council had dropped its opposition to the expressway and made an agreement with Metro on the use of Cedarvale Park for the expressway. This agreement provided for the creation of 12 acres (4.9 ha) of park lands in the Borough of York to replace the park lands lost to the expressway trench. This plan would have meant the expropriation of homes for the replacement lands and residents of York protested the plan to the Council. The cost of the expropriation plan was an estimated $4 million of construction, plus the loss of the assessment, while putting a cover over the roadway within the park would have cost $5 million. The opposition led Metro to agree to building the expressway within a tunnel under the park.[31]

As construction proceeded, opposition to the expressway grew among City of Toronto residents. In October 1969, the "Stop Spadina, Save Our City Co-ordinating Committee" (SSSOCCC) was formed,[32] under the chairmanship of University of Toronto professor Alan Powell. The group was a coalition of students, academics, politicians, ratepayer groups and business people.[33] Notable among the opposition was urban theorist Jane Jacobs, who moved to the Annex in 1969, fresh from a battle to stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York City. Marshall McLuhan, too, was opposed to the expressway and said: "Toronto will commit suicide if it plunges the Spadina Expressway into its heart... our planners are 19th century men with a naive faith in an obsolete technology. In an age of software Metro planners treat people like hardware — they haven't the faintest interest in the values of neighbourhoods or community. Their failure to learn from the mistakes of American cities will be ours too."[34] In the 1969 civic election, three councilors were elected in Toronto on a platform of immediately ending Spadina construction: Ying Hope, William Kilborn and John Sewell.[32]

1969–71: Review and cancellation[edit]

By 1969, all but $10 million of the approved $76 million was spent, completing the roadway only to Lawrence Avenue, and the road bed to Eglinton Avenue. Metro learned that the project would require a further $80 million for completion and halted construction and decided to review the project. The total cost of the project (including the rapid transit line) was now $237 million.[35] A trench had been dug in Cedarvale Park, and Metro Roads and Traffic Commissioner Sam Cass attempted to commit Metro to construction south of Eglinton by arranging to call for tenders in building a tunnel in the park. The call, going against Metro Council's explicit instructions, was noticed only one day before they would be published. The call was cancelled by Metro Chairman Albert Campbell.[36]

SSSOCCC developed its public campaign. SSSOCCC produced a short film by McLuhan entitled "The Burning Would" explaining the reasons to stop the project while poking fun at expressway backers.[37] SSSOCCC also held public lectures with Jacobs and started a petition campaign.[32] SSSOCCC members David and Nadine Nowlan, professors at U of T released their book The Bad Trip, an economic analysis of the project and explanation of their opposition.

Metro Council voted to apply to the OMB for permission to borrow the funds and requested that the OMB held hearings.[38] OMB Hearings began on January 4, 1971. Opposition groups banded together under the banner of "The Spadina Review Corporation" and hired one of Canada's top trial lawyers, John Josiah "J. J." Robinette, to plead their case.[39] Metro presented its case based on technical studies showing the road was needed to manage expected traffic. Council was represented by its solicitor and its witnesses included Metro and City Commissioners and American transportation planner Alan Voorhees.[40] Opposition groups based their case on the factors of noise, pollution, destruction of homes and the expected increase of traffic the roadway would cause. Their witnesses included Jack Fensterstock of the New York City Department of Air Resources,[41][42] neighbourhood residents, as well as urban planners, economists and architects. No elected officials, nor the Metro chairman, appeared to defend or oppose the project. The Board held 16 days of hearings and gave its approval by a vote of 2–1, OMB chairman J. A. Kennedy dissenting, on February 17, 1971.[35]

The Globe and Mail announces the cancellation of the Spadina Expressway, effectively the end of expressway construction in Toronto.

The Corporation then proceeded to appeal directly to the provincial government cabinet. On June 3, 1971, the provincial government of Bill Davis withdrew its support, effectively killing the project. The province would support the new Spadina subway line extension only. Speaking in the Ontario Legislature, Davis said:

If we are building a transportation system to serve the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to start. But if we are building a transportation system to serve people, the Spadina Expressway is a good place to stop.[43]

Toronto Mayor Dennison was shocked at the result. "It's shocking that a group who never at any time suggested workable alternative routes has successfully opposed something as important in the growth of Metro as was the Don Valley".[44] Metro Toronto chairman Albert Campbell was incensed at the provincial government, stating, "It may mean that we will never build another expressway."[45]


The debate over the Spadina Expressway, and its eventual cancellation, is regarded as a watershed moment in local politics. Toronto City Council was changing at the time to oppose the "top-down" planning of the Metro government. A "Reform Era" in Toronto politics was beginning, which brought to Toronto City Hall David Crombie, John Sewell, Allan Sparrow and Colin Vaughan. This new council viewed the Metro government and its officials with suspicion as not being accountable to local residents. In the 1950s and 1960s, Metro and City Councils had pushed through numerous large projects in transportation, and housing. The impacts on the central neighbourhoods had been substantial and had led to grassroots organizing. Councillors Sewell and Vaughan came directly from the grassroots campaigns.

According to Albert Rose in his study of Metro from 1953–1971, the cancellation of the project raised four issues that would affect Metro Council afterwards:[46]

  • Who plans? – Until this point, planning had been done by professional planners or Metro department heads based on technical issues, such as projected traffic congestion. Metro had not provided a policy for the planners to follow.
  • Role of the OMB in policy – The OMB was in charge of approving capital borrowing, a consideration dating from the days of the Depression. In the case of the Spadina, it had had to decide on an issue far beyond approving whether a municipality could afford the project.
  • Role of the OMB in planning – The OMB became an approver of land development disputes, which often pitted municipalities or residents or developers against each other. Was this an appropriate role for the OMB?
  • Role of the Metro chairman – The Metro chairman did not appear at the OMB to defend the project at the OMB. Chairman Campbell took a neutral position on a very important project.

Premier Davis called a provincial election not long after the decision, in October 1971. Davis' campaign strategy used the Spadina decision to differentiate his government from past Progressive Conservative governments. Davis, who was both attacked and lauded for the Spadina cancellation, was re-elected with increased support in Toronto.[47] Davis would remain in power in Ontario until 1985, when he retired from politics.

The cancellation marked the beginning of the end of construction of Metro's planned expressway network. Metro highway projects such as the Crosstown, Scarborough and Richview Expressways did not proceed. Other than extending Allen Road, Metro Toronto did not build another expressway and erased the other expressways from its official plans. Metro would proceed in future years to complete the Spadina subway line, extend the Yonge Street line, and build the Sheppard subway line.

In the opinion of critics, the move set "in motion a trend that has yet to abate: politicians overruling the painstaking work of urban and transportation planners".[48] There is often a long line of vehicles in the southbound lanes from as far north as Lawrence Avenue queued to exit on Eglinton and often long lineups of cars on Eglinton trying to get on Allen Road. In addition, the Spadina subway line, which is located within the median, has been criticized as the "worst place to put that route ... The stations that serve the Allen Road corridor are among the most uninviting, unwalkable places in the city."[48]


At the time of cancellation in 1971, the expressway was paved to Lawrence Avenue, while the portion running further south to Eglinton Avenue had been graded only and was given the nickname the "Davis ditch". Traffic from and to the southerly end of the road at Lawrence spilled onto neighbourhood streets, as the activists predicted, especially onto Marlee Avenue. Esther Shiner, who lived near the Lawrence intersection, was elected to North York Council in 1973 on a platform to get the expressway completed to Eglinton Avenue.[49] She headed the "Go Spadina" public campaign that was successful in persuading Metro, against the wishes of the City of Toronto, to pave the ditch and opened the road to Eglinton on September 8, 1976.[50][51]

In response, Davis made plans to transfer a strip of land south of Eglinton to the City of Toronto to block any further extension. Metro and the province ended their dispute in an agreement to build the Black Creek Drive arterial road, a southerly extension of Highway 400. Metro would transfer its Spadina lands south of Eglinton to the province, and the province would build Black Creek Drive south to Weston Road. Metro officials dragged their feet by attempting to get the buffer strip moved to Bathurst and St. Clair, enabling a possible future extension to Bathurst, and a widened Bathurst street, but the province threatened to simply expropriate the lands and the lands were turned over to the province in 1984.[50]

On February 7, 1985, on his final day in office, Davis delivered to the City of Toronto a 1-metre (3.3 ft) wide strip of the land on the south side of Eglinton Avenue West at the Allen intersection, with a 99-year lease, blocking any possible extension to the south.[1] Opponents such as Shiner had wanted the province to hold onto the land, hoping that a future premier would be willing to consider the highway. Shiner felt that "the expressway will be built, bit by bit, into the city". Shiner had received a $20 million estimate from Metro officials to extend Spadina as a four-lane south to Davenport.[52]

After the land transfer, North York Council made several attempts to get Premier David Peterson to reconsider Davis's actions, but he refused to meet Council representatives over the issue. Shiner attempted to get a Metro-wide plebiscite but failed.[49] North York sponsored a telephone survey of Toronto residents to show support for extending the expressway, but a majority supported transit improvements instead. Shiner's attempts ended only when she died of cancer in 1987.[49] Metro chairman Dennis Flynn and Metro planners still pushed for the completion as late as 1988, with the release of a traffic study of northwestern Metro that recommended extending the Spadina south, but Metro Council defeated further studies in a 14–12 vote on July 5, 1988.[53] Another proponent left the scene that year as long-time Metro Commissioner of Roads and Traffic Sam Cass retired.[54]

The Spadina subway line was built in the median of the project right-of-way from Wilson to Eglinton. The route south of Eglinton follows the approximate route planned for later sections of the expressway, albeit underground. During the planning of the route, alternate routes directly south along Christie Street and south along Bathurst Street were also considered. After the use of the University section of the subway by Bloor–Danforth trains was abandoned, the original route of the subway to connect with the St. George station was agreed upon. The University section of the Yonge line was made into a part-time route until the Spadina subway extension was built. After the cancellation of the Expressway in 1971, the subway's construction had not been started. Route studies occurred again, the original route was confirmed once more, and it proceeded to construction. It opened in 1978.

In 1995, most of the 401–Allen interchange overpasses were rehabilitated. The interchange was later modified from 2001 to 2004, when Ontario widened the westbound collectors to four lanes, eliminating the forced exit lane.

In 1996, Metro Council voted to end the matter finally and sell the 112 expropriated properties south of Eglinton Avenue. The properties were appraised and sold at fair market value, offered first to their former owners. The proceeds were divided between Metro and Ontario, with Metro keeping two-thirds up to $30 million, and proceeds above $30 million split equally. One home purchased by Metro in 1967 for $50,000 had appreciated in value to $440,000 by 1997.[55]

During the 2010 Toronto mayoral election, Rocco Rossi proposed completing the expressway in a tunnel to meet the Gardiner Expressway.[56] However, Rossi's position in favour of extending the expressway conflicted with the plans for the Lawrence Heights revitalization project. Later that week, after much criticism of Rossi by other candidates and the media, Rossi revised his position to one of "studying" building a tunnel.

In 2012, the City of Toronto started an environment assessment of improvements to the Allen Road area. The study's goals included how to make Allen Road better for the people who travel on it and the communities that surround it. It said that "Continuing Allen Road south, similar to the original 1950s expressway plan, is not being considered an option."[57]

In 2012, the City modified the Lawrence Avenue on-ramp to the northbound Allen, removing the right-turn channelization and one-lane merge into a two-lane on-ramp for both east and westbound traffic. The southbound Allen off-ramp to Lawrence Avenue was converted to two lanes, and the lanes were changed to one lane for each of left and right turns.


The road opened in four phases:

  • Lawrence Avenue West to Yorkdale Road – February 1964
  • Lawrence Avenue West to Wilson Heights – December 1966[58]
  • Lawrence Avenue West to Eglinton Avenue West – September 8, 1976[59]
  • Clanton Park to Kennard – 1982[60]


In 2014, the City of Toronto studied Allen Road and its operation, its effect on the neighbourhood, and the changes made to it since it opened. In September 2014, the City of Toronto released six options for the terms of reference for an environmental assessment.[61] The options were as follows:

  1. Maintain the roadway as is.
  2. Maintain the roadway, make conditions for pedestrians easier, and enhance access to subway stations.
  3. Make significant improvements to the corridor through the addition of HOV lanes, bike paths and pedestrian infrastructure.
  4. Transform the roadway to a surface roadway.
  5. Transform the roadway to a tunnel or deck.
  6. Eliminate the roadway entirely and open up the space for other uses. Subway service would remain in place.

Exit list[edit]

A trailblazer to Allen Road.

The following table lists the interchanges along Allen Road. Unlike the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway, exits along Allen Road are not numbered and are identified by street name. The entire route is located within Toronto. Wilson Heights is the last northbound interchange with all other junctions being intersections with traffic signals. 

Cedarvale0.00.0Eglinton Avenue WestHalf diamond interchange – Northbound entrance and southbound exit.
Lawrence Heights2.01.2Lawrence Avenue WestDiamond interchange; northbound single-lane on-ramp and southbound two-lane exit ramp; signalized intersections along Lawrence
Yorkdale Shopping Centre3.11.9Yorkdale RoadHalf diamond interchange with connection to ramps onto westbound and eastbound 401
3.62.2 Highway 401Clover-stack/turbine hybrid interchange
Wilson Heights4.83.0Wilson Heights BoulevardTrumpet interchange with northbound exit onto Wilson Heights Boulevard (southbound and northbound), southbound Allen Road
5.03.1Transit RoadAt-grade intersections with left turn signal for northbound Allen Road, southbound on ramp from Transit Road onto southbound Allen Road
5.73.5Sheppard West subway stationAt-grade with traffic signal at entrance to parking and kiss and ride
6.03.7Sheppard West subway station (bus-only entrance)At-grade right/left turn priority signalled entrance for TTC buses into station and right turn exit for buses from station onto northbound Allen Road
6.33.9Sheppard Avenue WestAt-grade intersection; one-way entrance north of Sheppard to access Dufferin Street stub (local traffic with no access to Dufferin Street north of Kennard), left turn signal into De Boer Drive north of Sheppard Avenue
6.44.0driveway access to Dufferin Street stubAt-grade one-way right turn entrance for northbound traffic only from Allen Road; local traffic with no access to Dufferin Street north of Kennard
6.474.02De Boer DriveAt-grade intersection with left/right turn signal for northbound and southbound traffic from Allen Road
7.04.3Rimrock RoadAt-grade intersection with signal to turn west onto Rimrock
7.154.44Kennard AvenueAt-grade intersection with roadway north of intersection becoming Dufferin Street
1.000 mi = 1.609 km; 1.000 km = 0.621 mi

North of Kennard Avenue, Allen Road becomes Dufferin Street. Dufferin Street runs semi-parallel with Allen Road south from Kennard. This stub section of Dufferin is a single lane residential street from Sheppard Avenue West, ending at a cul-de-sac north of Clifton Avenue.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Osbaldeston 2008, p. 144.
  2. ^ "Road Emergency Services Communication Unit (RESCU) Traffic Cameras". City of Toronto. November 17, 2017. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  3. ^ Sewell 2009, pp. 32–33.
  4. ^ "Two City Highways Will Cost $9 Million". The Globe and Mail. November 13, 1947. p. 1.
  5. ^ "Spadina Widening Must Go Through, Mayor Asserts". The Globe and Mail. January 6, 1948. p. 5.
  6. ^ "3 Controllers Favor Delaying Spadina Plan". The Globe and Mail. January 5, 1948. p. 1.
  7. ^ Colton 1980, p. 62.
  8. ^ Colton 1980, p. 63.
  9. ^ Colton 1980, pp. 165–172.
  10. ^ "Start $42 Million Yorkdale Centre". The Globe and Mail. p. 27.
  11. ^ "Road Budget Emphasizes Expressways". The Globe and Mail. February 7, 1961. p. 1.
  12. ^ a b Baker, Alden (December 13, 1961). "Metro Discards Crosstown Plan". The Globe and Mail. p. 1.
  13. ^ a b "Citizens Opposing Expressway Give Gardiner Hard Time". The Globe and Mail. June 14, 1960. p. 5.
  14. ^ "Seek Authority to Investigate Spadina Route". The Globe and Mail. June 28, 1960. p. 5.
  15. ^ a b "Propose Tunnel Under Forest Hill For Part of Spadina Expressway". The Globe and Mail. April 18, 1961. p. 1.
  16. ^ "New City Predicted Near Toronto Township". The Globe and Mail. June 22, 1961. p. 5.
  17. ^ "Chaos Feared if Expressways Slice Up Metro". The Globe and Mail. December 6, 1961. p. 5.
  18. ^ "Road Chief Misinformed, Goodhead says". The Globe and Mail. January 13, 1962. p. 5.
  19. ^ "North York to Fight For Spadina Scheme". The Globe and Mail. January 16, 1962. p. 5.
  20. ^ Haggart, Ron (February 26, 1962). "The Brilliant Campaign to Make Public Opinion". Toronto Star.
  21. ^ "The Strange Case of the All-Alike Letters". Toronto Star. March 1, 1962.
  22. ^ a b "Want 14 Acres For Spadina Plan". The Globe and Mail. February 6, 1962. p. 5.
  23. ^ "Ask City Car, Truck Tax". The Globe and Mail. February 6, 1962. p. 5.
  24. ^ "Will Go to Courts To Block Expressway, York Reeve Threatens". The Globe and Mail. February 5, 1962. p. 5.
  25. ^ "Spadina Expressway, Rapid Transit Passed by Committee". The Globe and Mail. February 10, 1962. p. 5.
  26. ^ "Metro Approves Spadina Expressway, Transit Line". The Globe and Mail. March 7, 1962. p. 5.
  27. ^ "Spadina Expressway". The Globe and Mail. March 9, 1962. p. 6.
  28. ^ "Foes Attack Spadina Plan". The Globe and Mail. February 2, 1963. p. 27.
  29. ^ "OMB Approves Expressway Despite Protest". The Globe and Mail. August 9, 1963. p. 4.
  30. ^ TPB, pg. 10
  31. ^ Osbaldeston 2008, p. 146.
  32. ^ a b c Cherry, Zena (January 17, 1970). "Expressway group plans to SSSOCCC it to Toronto". The Globe and Mail. p. 11.
  33. ^ Osbaldeston 2008, p. 147.
  34. ^ quoted in Nowlan and Nowlan, inside front cover
  35. ^ a b Rose 1972, p. 139.
  36. ^ MacKenzie, James (January 26, 1970). "How the 20-year political nightmare of the Spadina Expressway happened". The Globe and Mail.
  37. ^ Dzeguze, Kaspar (October 16, 1970). "Burning Would comic rebuke of expressway backers". The Globe and Mail. p. 15.
  38. ^ Rose 1972, p. 138.
  39. ^ Rose 1972, pp. 138–139.
  40. ^ Rose 1972, p. 142.
  41. ^ The Globe and Mail, 1971-01-21, James MacKenzie, "Pollution Predicted to be worse than New York's", Toronto.
  42. ^ The Globe and Mail, 1971-01-22, James MacKenzie, "Monoxide level safe on present Spadina, expert tells OMB", Toronto.
  43. ^ Sewell, 1993
  44. ^ Glynn, Dennis (June 4, 1971). "Dennison shocked by decision". The Globe and Mail. p. 1.
  45. ^ "'May never build another expressway': Campbell". The Globe and Mail. June 4, 1971. p. 1.
  46. ^ Rose 1972, pp. 140–143.
  47. ^ Rose 1972, p. 143.
  48. ^ a b "Gridlocked: how incompetence, pandering and baffling inertia have kept Toronto stuck in traffic". Archived from the original on September 28, 2014. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  49. ^ a b c "North York politician earned wide respect". The Globe and Mail. December 21, 1987. p. A19.
  50. ^ a b Osbaldeston 2008, p. 149.
  51. ^ "York Protests But Spadina Ditch Opens". Metro News / Editorials. The Toronto Star. September 8, 1976. p. B1.
  52. ^ Stead, Sylvia; Baker, Alden (December 14, 1984). "Title to 3-foot strip Spadina assurance on way, Davis says". The Globe and Mail. p. 1.
  53. ^ Monsebraaten, Laurie (July 6, 1988). "Metro refuses to re-examine Spadina expressway proposal". Toronto Star. p. A7.
  54. ^ "Roads commissioner Sam Cass retiring after 34 years in Metro". Toronto Star. October 5, 1988. p. A6.
  55. ^ Black, Debra (September 18, 1997). "Expropriated homes being sold: Ex-owners face huge price tags to buy houses taken in failed Spadina Expressway bid". Toronto Star. p. B3.
  56. ^ Paperny, Anna Mehler (September 13, 2010). "Rossi pledges to tunnel Allen under downtown if elected". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved September 13, 2010.
  57. ^ Allen Road Study The City of Toronto[permanent dead link]
  58. ^ Osbaldeston 2008, pp. 144–149.
  59. ^ Moore, Michael (September 10, 1976). "Nearby Residents Worry About Traffic, But Motorists Love Spadina Extension". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario. p. 5.
  60. ^ Toronto Expressways – Transfer Points. February 2004. – p. 8.
  61. ^ "City of Toronto". Archived from the original on October 29, 2014. Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  62. ^ "Toronto Neighbourhood Map". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on March 30, 2010. Retrieved April 30, 2010.


External links[edit]

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata