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Highway 401: Proposed Province-Wide Widening

Mooreton

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Province plans to create six-lane Highway 401


Almost 50 years after Highway 401 was officially open to drivers, the province plans to get its full expanse up to a minimum of six lanes by as early as 2013.


While the GTA span of the busy highway is regularly upgraded, the province is looking much further east and west to give drivers at least three lanes in each direction all the way from Windsor to the Quebec border, Transportation Minister
Donna Cansfield said yesterday.


The Post's Dakshana Bascaramurty reports:
“We’ve all been in situations where there’s been gridlock and I guess I’m even more aware of it as Minister of Transportation,†Ms. Cansfield said.

The province announced $330-million plans a year ago to expand a total of almost 50 kilometres. But when the 2007 five-year plan is released next month, it could include the final steps for installing six lanes for the full length of the highway, Ms. Cansfield said yesterday.


Jamie Rilett, a spokesperson for the ministry, said there was no firm date on border-to-border expansion, but by 2011 there will be six lanes running from London to Cobourg.

From the 1940s to 1960s, when the 820-kilometre stretch of highway was being developed, the province and developers had always expected it to expand, said John Shragge, who worked for the ministry of transportation for 26 years and compiled a history of the highway after he retired.

To accommodate eventual widening, a 91.4-metre-right-of-way bordering the 401 was established wherever possible, he said. This gave the 401 much more potential to grow than the QEW, where widening was limited to the 40-metre-right-of-way.

Though construction on many of the upgrades have yet to begin, OPP Sergeant Cam Woolley said the Transportation Ministry should already be thinking about stretching beyond six lanes. In the GTA, traffic volumes have doubled in the last decade are expected to double again, he said.

Various other upgrades are scheduled to be completed within the next few years.
In 2008, construction will be underway to get six uninterrupted lanes running from the GTA westward to Highway 402 in London.

In the east, the four lanes from Port Hope to Cobourg are also to be expanded to six, with construction slated to end this fall.

With almost one-quarter of the 450,000 vehicles on the 401 identified as trucks, Ms. Cansfield said expanding the 401 has as much to do with trade as it does commuting. In August, public consultations will be held to create a preferred route for trade from Windsor to the U.S. border, which should be running by 2013, said Ms. Cansfield.

At around the same time, the ministry’s next five-year plan will be announced in Ottawa, she said. When it comes to safety, projects within the GTA are of highest priority, said Ms. Cansfield. One of the top trouble spots is the 401 westerly from the end of the express-collector lanes at the interchange for Highways 401, 403 and 410, which is why a 12-lane express/collector from that interchange is being extended by eight kilometres to the Credit River.


While the idea of six lanes from Windsor to Quebec excites Mr. Shragge, he says all the planning, assessing and consulting will likely take a few decades rather than a few years.


"With drainage systems and median barriers, it’s a complex structural entity, not just, ‘Let’s slap some asphalt down and put in an extra lane,’ †Mr. Shragge said.


Published Wednesday, July 25, 2007 9:22 PM by Barry Hertz
Filed under: City, Politics
 

ShonTron

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Windsor to London and Woodstock to Ayr are really the only places where I can see 6-laning to make a lot of sense.

The 401 is already 6-laned from Windsor to Tilbury, London to Woodstock (402 to 403 basically), Ayr through Toronto to Cobourg, and now through a small section in Kingston.

I have been on US interstates where it is almost surprising that they have only 4 lanes on what should be busy corridors - I-94 between Detroit and Chicago, I-80-90 between Chicago and Cleveland, I-90 through Western New York.

I do not think it it necessary to have the 401 6 lanes through Eastern Ontario.
 

ShonTron

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I go back and forth to Belleville several times a year. It isn't needed east of where the six-laning stops now, at Cobourg. In fact, it worked fairly well when the end of the six-laning was at 35/115.

Once you get to Kingston, where do you stop? Interstate 81? The 416?
 

Hipster Duck

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^I've noticed that New York state drivers are more efficient at using lane space than here in Ontario. In general, driving habits there - although slower - are more civilized. People generally stay in the right except to pass and the speed limits are strictly enforced. Passing on the right, tailgating, and left lane hogging is not something I've seen down there, although I've only driven in New York state a half dozen times. I'm not sure if there is a correlation, but these kind of driving habits seem - at least anecdotally - to make traffic flow more freely.
 

ShonTron

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Yes, I find Ontario drivers to lack courtesy that American drivers have. I was on I-94 near Paw Paw Michigan (no joke) heading towards Chicago. One lane was closed up ahead for construction on the four lane highway. About 2 miles before the blockage, signs were up flashing. Everybody orderly moved to the right as they had time and opportunity to do so. Not one motorist raced along the merging lane to the end, like they do here all the time.

Maybe Ontarians are spoiled by highways that are largely better built than Interstates or Quebec Autoroutes - with long acceleration lanes, well banked curves and parclos throughout. But on the whole, Ontarians are much less behaved.
 

unimaginative2

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I find the Thruway in western New York to be much, much less busy than the 401 at any point. I counted the time I drove without seeing another car and it was over two minutes, and this was only around 9pm.

Just the other weekend I was driving east from Toronto to Montreal, and to my astonishment there was a traffic jam going the other way from all the way past Belleville. It was a holiday long weekend, but it was still unbelievable. I also remember a drive home from Ottawa once where the traffic was stop-and-go right from Kingston. 6-laning definitely makes sense to Kingston, but beyond there it's more questionable. Beyond Highway 416 it is unnecessary at this point, though it can pick up a bit east of Cornwall.
 

waterloowarrior

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Just the other weekend I was driving east from Toronto to Montreal, and to my astonishment there was a traffic jam going the other way from all the way past Belleville. It was a holiday long weekend, but it was still unbelievable. I also remember a drive home from Ottawa once where the traffic was stop-and-go right from Kingston. 6-laning definitely makes sense to Kingston, but beyond there it's more questionable. Beyond Highway 416 it is unnecessary at this point, though it can pick up a bit east of Cornwall.
I was stuck in that jam (going from Ottawa to Waterloo)... I also found it amazing that it was just because of volume, not because of accidents.
 

JasonParis

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It seems more like a "nation building" (or should I say "province building"?) legacy project than one that makes a significant amount of sense.

And why still no mention of fixing the GTA's biggest backlog and reconfiguring the whole 401/427 mess? At least the loss of two lanes at Yonge Street is being addressed with this summer's construction.
 

adma

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I find the Thruway in western New York to be much, much less busy than the 401 at any point. I counted the time I drove without seeing another car and it was over two minutes, and this was only around 9pm.
Though remember that its a toll route, which may (together with the relative sparsity of interchanges, or the prevalence of non-toll alternatives) cut down the incentive to arbitrarily use it...
 

AnarchoSocialist

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Just the other weekend I was driving east from Toronto to Montreal, and to my astonishment there was a traffic jam going the other way from all the way past Belleville. It was a holiday long weekend, but it was still unbelievable.
My parents house, about 20 km west of Kingston, sits at the top of a small valley and overlooks the 401. Since I often visit on holiday weekends I have often sat on the front porch and been able to see the amount traffic on the 401 and it is something to see cars moving at 50 km/h through the middle of nowhere simply because of the volume.

Though I don't really see the need for adding more lanes much further east than Cobourg, the growth in traffic on the 401 over the past 20 years is quite incredible. I can remember being a kid and sitting in the front of my parents car as we drove down the 401 to visit family and the highway being almost empty, even during the daytime. Now the only you would probably see the highway that quiet is 4am on a Sunday morning.
 

adma

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Oy.

And the grade separation that *was* built in Bowmanville in the 80s (I think) has already been decommissioned...
 

Observer Walt

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Is this most recent announcement such a big deal? Port Hope to Cobourg certainly isn't very far. The only major thing mentioned is an additional lane from Woodstock (Hwy 403) to a point west of Kitchener, which is needed and welcome but again not really a major thing.

Now if they would start making concrete progress on a new connection between Detroit and Windsor, where the 401 kind of peters out in the south end of Windsor, a traffic disaster area if there ever was one ...
 

Copper1212

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Having just drivin to the 1000 Islands and back I can say that this 6-laning might not be such a bad idea, atleast to that point anyway. I quickly realized that with 2 lanes I basically had the option of going 130 in the left lane or 100 in the right, there really is no inbetween...of course I chose 130.
 

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