History of the Trans-Canada in Thunder Bay, Ontario



:ake freighter at grain elevator

Thunder Bay Expressway

The Fort William and Port Arthur (later Thunder Bay) Highway was established in 1968, following the completion of the Lakehead Expressway route around Fort William and Port Arthur, which was given the Highway 11 & Highway 17.

The old 17.5 km Business Route through the two cities via Hodder Avenue, Cumberland Street, Bay Street, Memorial Avenue, May Street and Arthur Street was renumbered as Highway 11B/17B.


View of Sleeping Giant from Hillcrest Park

Amalgamation of Port Arthur and Fort William

In 1970, the City of Thunder Bay was formed by merging of the cities of Fort William, Port Arthur, and the townships of Neebing and McIntyre. The business route continued to be marked on the Official Ontario Road Map up until 1997, which suggests the route was signed until that time.

In 2016, the Neebing River Bridge on the Thunder Bay Expressway was rehabilitated


Harbour Expressway

Fort William historical site Following early explorers like Radisson and Groseilliers, Du Luht, De Noyon, and La Verendrye, by 1789 Roderick McKenzie of the North West Company established field headquarters at Fort William. When the fort was in its heyday, the Nor' Westers gathered there each summer, bartering with the Indians for furs, partaking in the noisy celebrations of the Great Rendezvous.

There soon developed a bitter rivalry between the North West and Hudson's Bay companies, that led to Lord Selkirk's seizure of the fort in 1816. The Companies were amalgamated in 1821, but after that time the industry gradually declined. A reconstruction of the old fort at Fort William Historical Park gives the visitor a glimpse into the past.

Historic Fort William


After the completion of the canal at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855, the country gradually opened up, and settlers came to the Lakehead before heading further west.

fountains in the Lakeside park in Port Arthur The Harbour Expressway was built along the original route of Highway 11 and Highway 17, which went through the downtowns of Fort William and Port Arthur. They are now bypassed to the northwest by the Thunder Bay Expressway. The Harbour Expressway draws traffic into the waterfront areas, and was built 1978-1979 at a cost of $3.5 million. The entire route of the Harbour Expressway is four lanes and undivided, with all intersections at-grade.

The road is one of the busiest in Thunder Bay. The highway bisects the Intercity area, which is home to a cluster of big box retail stores and office parks. There are eventual plans to divide the expressway and build interchanges, the city of Thunder Bay has a right of way for these expansion plans.

Terry Fox monument, just east of Thunder Bay

Terry Fox Lookout & Memorial

One of the most popular attractions along the Trans-Canada Highway is the Terry Fox monument. It marks the point where 22 year old cancer survivor Terry Fox had to end his planned coast to coast Marathon of Hope. This cancer fundraising run by Terry Fox had begun in St john's Newfoundland, in April of 1980, though he had to quit when the cancer came back. He had run 3,339 miles, completing about a marathon distance every day for 143 days.

The nine-foot-high bronze statue is set on a 45-ton granite base, with a foundation of local amethyst. The access is about 1km east of Hodder Ave, with access from both directions on the Trans-Canada.

About Terry Fox




Other Resources

Ignace to Thunder Bay itinerary Northern Ontario Highways Maps Southern Ontario Highways Maps History of Ontario Ministry of Transportation 50 Years of Trans-Canada

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