highway 401

Parts of the 401 are going to be widened to 10 lanes and people aren't happy

Toronto is a city that favours cars by design, and the pattern of pedestrian and cyclist deaths (and other types of vehicular destruction) have long caused not only community outrage, but a number of city-led initiatives to try and make our roads safer.

And, while the pandemic has led to the liberation of streets in Toronto and elsewhere in the world for greater pedestrian use, countless road construction projects in and around the city are still pushing ahead for the benefit of drivers.

One of these is the expansion of Highway 401, which the province of Ontario confirmed this week will be widened in yet another section from six to a whopping ten lanes.

The thoroughfare, which is one of the main transportation routes into and out of the city and is the busiest highway in North America, will as a result be looking a little more like a big ol' American interstate around Cambridge, which is just over an hour's drive west of Toronto.

The work, taking place between Hespeler and Townline roads, will start later this year and is the second phase of the expansion — and members of the public are far from thrilled about it.

Caroline Mulroney, the province's minister of transportation, said in a release on Wednesday that "Highway 401 is a lifeline for travel and the movement of goods throughout our province and that's why we are making historic investments to expand and modernize it."

Though one of the aims of the construction is to reduce traffic on the roadway (which is pretty impassable during rush hours), some residents — including Toronto City Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam — are noting that adding more lanes actually invites more cars instead of encouraging people to take alternative, more eco-friendly means of travel.

Others have noted that past expansions of the 401 did nothing to curb its notorious traffic jams, and are also looking back on the time a few months ago when the province scrapped the much more forward-thinking LRT line connecting Toronto to Hamilton.

Residents were eagerly anticipating the transit project, and it certainly would have helped vehicle congestion on nearby roads.

Citizens are also pointing out that in many places around the world, the pandemic has forced officials to rethink how entire societies move and operate, and has provided an opportunity to change ways of life for the better of people and the planet.

Drastically widening a highway instead of putting money into new public transit projects does not exactly seem like a progressive step forward.

There is no exact start or end date for the construction as of yet, but Ontarians will have to wait and see to what extent the expansion improves (or worsens) quality of life.

Lead photo by

Clement Lo

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