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Highway 401 in Ontario - busiest freeway in the world

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Happy Birthday to Toronto's portion of the 401! :cheers: If you're lucky with traffic, it can be a fun road to drive :)

--- Quote ---Celebrating 60 years of Highway 401 in Toronto

Built to solve some of Toronto's traffic woes, the local section of Highway 401 has instead become one of the busiest roadways in the world.

Sixty years ago this week, Ontario Minister of Highways James Allen officially opened the Toronto section of Highway 401 between Islington Avenue and Markham Road. Built over more than six years, the four-lane "super highway," which would eventually cut across Southern Ontario, was supposed to bring an end to Toronto's post-war traffic problems. Six decades and countless expansions later, the promised driving utopia has, unfortunately, failed to materialize.

Here are five things to know about the origins of the 401 on its 60th birthday.

1. The 401 was supposed to be a Toronto bypass

In 1950, prior to construction of the 401 and Gardiner Expressway, all east-west motor traffic in Southern Ontario had to pass through downtown Toronto using regular city streets. The 401—originally billed as a "bypass"—was built in conjunction with Highway 400 to divert traffic over top of Toronto through what was then mostly fields and new housing subdivisions.

2. The interchanges were amazing

Most motorists in Toronto had never experienced a highway interchange until the 401 opened. The gigantic cloverleaf at the intersection of the 400 and 401—nicknamed the "Crossroads of Canada" for its sheer scale—was the most complex ever built in Ontario when it was finished. The province thought the interchanges so complex that it made charts available to schools "with a view to educating drivers to be."

3. The road was supposed be lined with trees and flowers

It was to be a "thing of beauty to behold." As part of Highway 401 construction, the province agreed to replace every tree it chopped down, making the Toronto portion of the highway a giant avenue of more than 300,000 maples, pines, and Douglas firs. The province also toyed with the idea of planting 2.5-metre rose bushes along the shoulder of the roadway; partly to beautify the road, and partly as a safety measure. The roses, the highways department thought, would slow motorists and act as snow fences in winter.

4. Construction didn't go as planned

The Toronto portion of the 401 contained one of the largest concentrations of highway bridges, overpasses, and underpasses in the province, and building all these gigantic structures at the same time was a significant engineering challenge. Hurricane Hazel heavily damaged the unfinished bridge over the Humber River in 1954 and the bridge at the Don River had to be redesigned when soil conditions proved challenging. A shortage of structural steel from the United States also delayed the project.

5. The 401 was never a driver's paradise

No sooner had it opened were drivers complaining of traffic tie-ups. Thousands of people living in the vicinity of the highway used the 401 for local trips, slowing down those using the road for its intended purpose: bypassing Toronto. The road, which was designed more than a decade before it opened, was already a target for expansion to six lanes in April, 1956. Sixty years later, the Toronto portion of the 401 is the busiest section of highway in the world.
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Widest part. Click for full size.



--- Quote from: haljackey on December 07, 2016, 09:35:36 PM ---Widest part. Click for full size.


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It's really amazing how many vehicles that freeway can handle. If you took all the vehicles in the centre carriageways, and stuck them in the outer carriageways, I'd guess that traffic would be horrible. But the extra carriageways adds an incredible amount of capacity.

Increasing density along the highway

Full size

The Toronto Region Board of Trade is calling for a vertical expansion of Highway 401 near Toronto Pearson International Airport to help alleviate gridlock.


At the 427 for instance, the 401 goes from 18 to 10 lanes (and just 8 under the 427) as the collector lanes end. If a new viaduct was built to extend the collector lanes between Highways 427 and 409, you would eliminate this bottleneck.


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