401 widening

Ontario wants to widen hectic Highway 401 and here's how it could happen

With just days to go until Ontario policitians set off on the campaign trail for 2022's provincial election, all major parties are vying for the voting public's attention and favour.

One way to do that? Big, eyebrow-raising campaign promises, like free prescription birth control, a tax for having multiple homes, removing HST from prepared food items under $20 or, in the case of the PCs, making North America's busiest highway even wider than it already is.

The difference between the former three promises and the latter are that the highway widening can actually be planned, in an official context, by the ruling PC party.

The Doug Ford government included enhanced plans for widening Highway 401 in its brand new budget, unveiled Thursday, alongside some $198.6-billion worth of other projects.

Of that nearly $200 billion, the budget has allocated at least $21.5 billion toward highway planning, expansion and rehabilitation alone.

"For too long, the people of Ontario have been stuck in gridlock, with thousands of hours wasted on packed trains or behind the wheel in bumper-to-bumper traffic, costing billions to the province's economy," reads a 2022 budget document on the province's website .

"This has to change. This is why the government is building Ontario with more roads and bridges, transit and highways, including Highway 413 and the Bradford Bypass."

The aforementioned new highways have proven incredibly controversial due to their cost and, more importantly, their potential impact upon native wildlife and the environment.

People don't seem quite as opposed to making the 401 wider, however, given how many people use the highway each day and how much they struggle with traffic congestion.

As part of its proposed budget, Ontario has allocated funds toward "the first steps to enable the future widening of Highway 401" just east of Toronto.

"The Highway 401 corridor is an important economic link to Eastern Ontario, Eastern Canada, and Ontario's largest Canadian trading partner — Quebec. It carries, on average, 17,000 trucks per day with commodities valued at $615 million per day," reads a portion of the aforementioned budget document.

"About $75 million worth of U.S.-related trade moves through this corridor. This is why the government is undertaking early works and property acquisitions along Highway 401, including bridge replacements in Oshawa and Port Hope. This work would enable future widening of Highway 401 to relieve congestion starting at Brock Road in Pickering and through Eastern Ontario."

The government hopes that expanding the highway — already one of the continent's largest — will help fight gridlock and "make the trip easier for people travelling along the corridor."

According to the PC government, work to expand Highway 401 will include:

  • A bridge replacement in Oshawa to facilitate future widening between Brock Road in Pickering through to Highway 35/115.
  • A bridge replacement in Port Hope to facilitate future widening between Highway 35/115 through to Belleville.
  • Land acquisitions to facilitate future widening of Highway 401 through Belleville and Brockville

Simple as it may sound (who am I kidding? It doesn't sound simple), this plan would be seriously jeopardized if the Ford government were to lose power in the upcoming June 2022 election.

If another party wins the election and takes control of the province, they could easily scrap all of these highway plans. It's tough to say for sure if they would or not... but it's easy to speculate.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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