History of the Trans-Canada side-trip from Toronto to Montreal



Rotary Park on Lake Ontario, Ajax

Highway 401

in the 1930s, congestion started to become a problem in towns and cities along Highway 2 which was a standard two-lane highway, passing through every town from Windsor to the Quebec Boundary. Though planning began before World War II, the first section of the new highway from West Hill in Scarborough Township to Oshawa was not completed until 1947, and initially called Highway 2A. In 1952, the route number was changed from Highway 2A to Highway 401 reflecting its 4 lane divided highway status.

The Toronto Bypass was completed in 1956 after several years of construction. It ran from Highway 27 to connect to the exiting West Hill segment. Other high priority sections included sections from Windsor to Tilbury, London to Woodstock, Milton to Toronto, Oshawa to Port Hope, Trenton to Belleville, and Kingston to Gananoque, with gaps filled in over the remainder of the 1960s.

Frenchmans Bay, i nPickering Eventually the highway extended continuously from Windsor right to Quebec (where it joined Autoroute 40). The last section of Highway 401 was completed between Gananoque and Brockville in 1968. The highway was officially named the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway in 1965, to commemorate two of Canada's Fathers of Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George Etienne Cartier. One from Lower Canada (Quebec) and one from Upper Canada (Ontario).

Ajax Village shopping, on old highway 2 The Toronto Bypass was widened to a minimum of twelve lanes (six lanes per direction) from Islington Avenue to Neilson Road during the 1960s and early 1970s. With three express lanes and three collector lanes in each direction, and traffic able to switch lanes at strategic spots along the way.

Belleville, overhead view In 1985, another multi-lane collector-express section of Highway 401 was completed between Highway 427 and Highway 403 in Mississauga, west of the Airport, boasting eighteen though lanes (nine lanes for each direction). Later, a minimum of twelve lanes (six lanes in each direction) were built along Highway 401 between Neilson Road (Scarborough) and Brock Road (Pickering), completed in 1997. Highway 401 was widened to six lanes through Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa and Bowmanville in the 1970s and early 1980s. Since the late 1990s, Highway 401 has been widened to six lanes from the Highway 35 Interchange near Bowmanville to the Burnham Street Interchange in Cobourg, and further extended to beyond Nagle Road near Cobourg which will be completed by late 2017.

In 2007, Highway 401 from CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Trenton to Toronto was dedicated as the "Highway of Heroes," to commemorate Canada's fallen soldiers who died serving in Afghanistan. Highway signs for the Highway of Heroes designation bearing a large red poppy were installed along Highway 401 between Toronto and Trenton at that time

Kayaking  in Thousand Island National Park Exits along Highway 401 are numbered based on their distance from the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor. Approximate distances along the highway can therefore be calculated by subtracting one exit number from another. The posted speed limit on Highway 401 is 100 km/h (60 mph) so travel times can easily be estimated based on exit number differences and therefore distances.

Kingston to Montreal 243 km

Montréal From Parc Jea Highway 401 runs continuously from Windsor right to Quebec, where it joins Autoroute 40 and continues into Montreal and beyond. The highway was officially named the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway in 1965, to commemorate two of Canada's Fathers of Confederation, Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George Etienne Cartier. One from Lower Canada (Quebec) and one from Upper Canada (Ontario). The last section of Highway 401 was completed between Gananoque and Brockville in 1968.

2016: 401 - Hwy 15 to Frontenac Cty. Rd. 38 "Phase 4" Montreal St. and CNR overheads, Kingston Bridge replacement / widening / interchange improvements

Other Resources

Toronto to Kingston itinerary Kingston to Montreal itinerary Northern Ontario Highways Maps

Southern Ontario Highways Maps

History of Ontario Ministry of Transportation

50 Years of Trans-Canada

More Trans-Canada Highway History

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Trans-Canada Highway Itinerary Map

Use mouse to drag/move map. Click on "+" or "-" to zoom in or out. "Satellite" combines map & photo.

Use mouse to drag/move map. Click on "+" or "-" to zoom in or out. "Satellite" combines map & photo.

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