History of Toronto’s Unfinished Expressway System
Toronto is served by a system of both Provincial Freeways and Municipal
Expressways. Provincial Freeways are owned and operated by the Ontario Ministry
of Transportation including the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highways 400, 401, 403,
404, 409, 410 and 427. Highway 407 was sold to a private company and is
operated as an express toll route. Municipal Expressways, which are owned and
operated by the City of Toronto (formerly Metropolitan Toronto), include the
Gardiner, Don Valley and Allen (Spadina) Expressways. The Province also
transferred Black Creek Drive (400 Extension), Highways 27 and 2A and a stretch
of the Queen Elizabeth Way, which is now part of the Gardiner Expressway, to the
City of Toronto. Black Creek and Highway 27 are part of the arterial road system.
The expressway system was planned in a grid pattern crossing Toronto to take the
City's ever-increasing traffic out of neighbourhoods by routing it around them on
by-pass routes, therefore unclogging local streets. Expressways also provided fast
routes for the movement of goods. The system would be expanded to keep the
growing traffic volumes moving. The anti-expressway movement, which became
strong in the early 1970's, argued that expressways took out homes, brought more
cars downtown and increased air pollution. This debate caused great controversy
and resulted in virtually no new highways being built in Toronto since 1971.
• Intercity Provincial Freeway Construction 1939-1954 3
• The era of new Municipal Expressway Construction 1954-1969 5
• Protests against Expressway Construction 1969-1975 12
• Expressways are unpopular 1975-Present 17
• The Future 20
• Toronto Expressway History Timeline 23
• Ontario Expressways Built 1930’s to 1950’s 3
• Toronto Expressway System 1959 5
• Toronto Expressway System 1966 8
• Toronto Expressway System 1974 14
• Toronto Expressway System 1989 18
• Toronto Expressway System Today 20
Intercity Provincial Freeway Construction 1939-1954
There have been roughly three stages of expressway construction in the Toronto
area: the first, lasting from the 1930s to the early 1950s, saw the construction of
inter-city provincial freeways which terminated well short of downtown Toronto. A
second stage, lasting from the early 1950s to the 1970s, was a rapid growth of
urban expressways, built by the Metropolitan Toronto government with plans for
many other expressways. The third stage, lasting from the mid 1970s to the
present, is the construction of suburban and bypass freeways in Southern Ontario,
primarily by the province. All but one of the Metropolitan Toronto expressway
projects were never completed.
The first expressways in the Toronto area were those of the intercity type, and were
designed to relieve pressure on existing highways between large urban areas. The
first of these was the Queen Elizabeth Way (named after the Queen Mother, not
Queen Elizabeth the Second, the current monarch), which was officially opened in
1939. The QEW did not actually enter Toronto, but stopped just short of the
Humber River. Its other end was just short of the Niagara River in Niagara Falls, at
the point where the Rainbow Bridge would be opened in 1941 to replace the old
Honeymoon Bridge that had collapsed in 1938. The QEW's branch to its present
terminus at Fort Erie did not open until 1956. The highway then had three end
points until 1980 when, presumably because this had confused people, the original
branch to Niagara Falls was renamed as highway 420.
The QEW has been described as North America's first freeway, but it had grade
level intersections at secondary roads, featured traffic circles at Clarkson, Stoney
Creek and Niagara Falls and was subject to delays at lift bridges at Hamilton Beach
and Homer (near St. Catharines). The highway also had an unprotected level
crossing in Niagara Falls. When the QEW was built, it had been designed not only
by traffic engineers, but also sculptors and landscape architects. When the freeway
was widened and upgraded in the 1950s, many of the original bridges and
landscaping were removed. However, artifacts remain: The "Mile 0" monument was
retained, and moved into a nearby park when the Gardiner was built in the 1950s.
Original bridges remain in St. Catharines and at York Street in Hamilton (Hamilton
was planned as the original terminus of the QEW) and original lighting is still in
place with the monogram "ER" (standing for Queen Elizabeth in Latin) on the
lamppost brackets at the Credit River Bridge in Mississauga and on part of the 420
in Niagara Falls.
The second freeway to be built in the Toronto area was Highway 2A, which ran from
West Hill in Scarborough to Ritson Road in Oshawa, about 30 kilometres. (Today
the section between Port Union Road and Ritson Road is now the 401. This was
completed in December 1947 as a full four lane expressway with proper
The third freeway to be built was the Toronto-Barrie Highway, which ran northward
from Wilson Avenue, between today's Jane Street and Weston Road. The
expressway, finished in June 1952, terminated just beyond Barrie at Highway 93
(near where the 400 and 11 split today). It was built to reduce an increasing
amount of traffic on Highways 11 and 27, and unlike the QEW, it was built entirely
as a controlled-access highway, except for a grade-level railway crossing near
Cookstown. The 400's early construction is still visible as the Ontario Coat of Arms
is engraved in the concrete bridges that were built at the time.
Up to the mid 1950s, no expressway was built in the City of Toronto proper, as all
the expressways built (QEW, 2A and 400) terminated short of the city limits.
Highway 401 was completed as a Toronto By-Pass by 1956 and most of Highway 2A
was absorbed into it, except for a short stretch connecting to Kingston Road. In
1965, Highway 401 was given the official name of the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway,
named after two leaders at the time of Canadian Confederation, Sir John A.
Macdonald and Georges E. Cartier. Lands were purchased by the Province to
eventually extend Highway 400 south to Eglinton Avenue.
The era of new Municipal Expressway Construction 1954-1969
In 1953 Metropolitan Toronto was incorporated by the Province of Ontario, as a new
upper-tier government for the City of Toronto and 12 surrounding municipalities
(Townships of York, East York, North York, Etobicoke, Scarborough; the towns of
Weston, Leaside, Mimico and New Toronto and villages of Swansea, Long Branch
and Forest Hill). The new entity was now responsible for many tasks, such as
central planning, water and wastewater, the Toronto Transportation Commission
and most arterial roads. The first chairman of Metro was a corporate lawyer and the
former reeve of the village of Forest Hill, Frederick G. Gardiner, an appointee by his
personal friend, Premier Leslie Frost.
Only three months after Metro was formed, the new council approved a new
lakeshore highway in principle. The Lakeshore Expressway was built to connect the
Queen Elizabeth Way (which terminated just west of the Humber River) to central
Toronto, and allow traffic to bypass the central core, as most cross town traffic
used Lakeshore Boulevard, Queen or Bloor Streets, which were severely congested.
Canada's first urban expressway was hyped by the Toronto press. A quote from the
May 3, 1954 Toronto Telegram provides an excellent example:
"How would you like to drive through Toronto during rush-hour at 50 miles an hour?... you would
have no stoplights to contend with, no billboards to... fray your temper. In addition, you would
have a beautiful view of the lake through most of the ten- mile trip, with miles of six-lane, gently
curving landscaped highway....
The next year, Metro approved the construction of the western section from the
Humber River to the current Jameson Avenue interchange. Construction began on
the elevated section between Dufferin Street and the Don Valley Parkway in 1960.
With the construction of the new Lakeshore Expressway, the Queensway was
extended from the Humber River to Sunnyside, which compensated for the
disconnection between the Queen/Roncesvalles intersection and Lakeshore
Boulevard. A new median streetcar right of way was built with the construction of
the Queensway. Before its initial opening in 1958 from the QEW to Jamieson
Avenue, the Lakeshore Expressway was named the Frederick G. Gardiner
expressway in honour of the first chairman of Metropolitan Toronto. The
expressway was continued eastward on an elevated structure above Lake Shore
Boulevard and railway lines to connect to York Street by 1962, the Don Valley
Parkway by 1964 and Leslie Street by 1966. Plans for a further extension to
Birchmount Road were approved in 1967 with the intention of it eventually
extending to Highway 401 in eastern Scarborough. A brief controversy over the
proposal to build the expressway over the Fort York cemetery was solved by the
expressway being built around it further south.
The second highway which was built by Metro Toronto was the Don Valley Parkway,
which paralleled the Don River from Keating Street (connecting with the new
Gardiner Expressway) to Don Mills Road, then using the Woodbine Avenue
alignment northward to the Highway 401 Toronto bypass, which was under
construction at the time. The Don Valley Parkway opened between Bloor Street and
Eglinton Avenue in 1961, to Lawrence Avenue in 1963, south to the Gardiner and
Lake Shore in 1964 (at the same time that the Gardiner reached this point) and to
Highway 401 by 1966 and Sheppard Avenue by 1967. Plans were made and lands
were bought to eventually extend the Parkway north of Steeles Avenue and have it
continue further north as a new Provincial highway. Public opposition to the DVP
and the Gardiner was limited. Both expressways were built without dividing
neighbourhoods and followed natural corridors. The only major demolitions that
took place were to make room for the Gardiner/Jameson interchange and south of
Cabbagetown to make room for the Adelaide and Richmond Street approaches to
GARDINER AT SUNNYSIDE ELEVATED DOWNTOWN GARDINER
DVP UNDER CONSTRUCTION DVP AT LAWRENCE
AT POTTERY ROAD 1959
While the construction of the DVP and Gardiner Expressway was proceeding, traffic
planners were designing further highways to criss-cross Metro Toronto. The 1966
Metro expressway plan showed new highways such as the 407 in the suburbs, and
five new expressways in Metro Toronto: the Spadina, the Crosstown, the
Scarborough (Gardiner Extension), the Richview and the 400 Extension/Christie-
Clinton Expressways. (The 1966 plan also showed a Queen Subway the running
between Roncesvalles and Pape/Danforth). The Spadina Expressway was the next
priority, originally intended as a Spadina Road Extension, it would now be an
expressway connecting Dufferin Street and Sheppard Avenue with Spadina Avenue
at Harbord Street, south of Bloor Street.
The Spadina Expressway was to connect central Toronto with the rapidly growing
suburbs in the northwest, as the DVP connected with the northeast. Almost from
the beginning, the Spadina Expressway was to come with a subway line running
through the middle of it. Construction began on the first phase of the Spadina
Expressway in 1963 and it was completed between Wilson Heights Boulevard and
Lawrence Avenue by December 1966. Construction of Yorkdale Shopping Centre
depended on the approval of the Spadina route. The name was changed in 1969 to
the William R. Allen Expressway, named for the second chairman of Metro Toronto.
An eastern extension of the Gardiner Expressway, known as the Scarborough
Expressway was the next priority for Toronto after the Spadina and was intended to
link to the eastern spur of the Gardiner at Leslie Street to the terminus of Highway
2A in West Hill. From Leslie, it would have run along the Lakeshore to Greenwood
Racetrack, then swung north to just north of Kingston Road. From there, it would
have run just north of Kingston Road, paralleling the CN Kingston Subdivision for a
distance, then meeting up with Highway 2A near Highland Creek which would
connect it to Highway 401 at Port Union Road. Lands were acquired by Metro along
the route from 1958 until 1971 and much of a vacant corridor was set aside along
the route within Scarborough.
The Crosstown Expressway was to connect the Don Valley Parkway and the Spadina
Expressway to the Highway 400 Extension. The Crosstown would have run roughly
parallel to Davenport Road and the CP North Toronto subdivision. The expressway
would have connected with the Don Valley Parkway just north of the Prince Edward
Viaduct, be built through the Rosedale Ravine, run northwest to the CP line, and
run along the north side of the railway to the vicinity of Christie Street where it
would connect to an extended Highway 400. In fact, the elongated connecting
interchange between the DVP, Bayview Avenue and Bloor Street is the only section
of the Crosstown alignment built. The ramp to Bloor Street was to be a four-lane
expressway running up the Belt Line Ravine.
The Highway 400 Extension was constructed by the Province to curve southeasterly
of Highway 401 to connect to Jane Street in 1966. The Province secured the right-
of-way to extend it south to Eglinton Avenue. A further extension built by Metro
would extend south-easterly to connect to the Crosstown Expressway near Christie
Street and Davenport Road and then it would swing south to the west of Bathurst
Street. Known as the Clinton-Christie expressway or as a part of the 400 extension,
it was to have paralleled Christie and Grace Streets, running between Grace and
Clinton Streets, it would have connected to the Gardiner just west of Fort York.
Interchanges were to have been built at Bloor, College and Queen Streets. The
Gardiner structure west of Strachan Avenue was built with extra width to
accommodate ramps from a future Highway 400 Extension. Alternate alignments
for the 400 Extension included the Allendale route along the CN/CP rail line and the
Keele/Parkside alignment going straight south to the Gardiner along Parkside Drive.
The Richview Expressway was to have run from the Mount Dennis area (where it
would connect to the 400 Extension) westward to the junction of Highways 401 and
27. From there, it would be built by the provincial government to Hamilton as
Highway 403. The Metro government began land assembly for the project along
Richview Side Road (later Eglinton Avenue) and a vacant corridor was protected.
The Ministry of Transportation, when upgrading the 401/427 interchange in the
1970s, designed the interchange to connect with the new freeway. This is why
today there is a very wide right of way for Eglinton Avenue in Etobicoke and an
elaborate connection from the 401 and 427 to Eglinton Avenue, as those were the
ramps for the Richview Expressway.
Protests against Expressway Construction 1969-1975
As work commenced on the less controversial Lawrence to Sheppard section of the
Spadina (Allen) Expressway through the mid 1960s, the plans for the Crosstown
and Christie-Clinton expressways were abandoned. Metro Toronto's expressway
plan was facing growing criticism from inner city residents upset with the possible
impact upon their neighbourhoods, particularly the Spadina Expressway which was
then under construction. Urban sociologist Jane Jacobs came to Toronto in 1968
and immediately took a lead in the fight against the Spadina, preaching that
expressways would destroy neighbourhoods. Political efforts in 1970 concentrated
on getting the approval to construct the rest of the Spadina and Scarborough
expressways. Spadina was scheduled to be completed by 1975 and construction of
the Scarborough would follow after that. On February 17, 1971 the Ontario
Municipal Board ruled that construction on the expressway should proceed, despite
strong opposition from inner city citizens and activist groups known as urban
reformers. The citizens’ committee than appealed to the provincial cabinet. For its
part, Metro did no work on the expressway while the matter was before the OMB.
The Spadina was completed north from Lawrence Avenue only and the section
south from Lawrence to Eglinton had been readied for paving since September
1969 when work was halted pending a review.
According to a Metro report published in 1970, the expressway was to run from the
Wilson Heights area to Harbord Street near the University of Toronto. It would have
run south from Wilson Heights Road to Eglinton between Bathurst and Dufferin in a
depressed trench. South of Eglinton, it would follow the Cedarvale Ravine,
tunnelling through part of it. An interchange would have been built with Bathurst St
with southbound-to-southbound and northbound-to-northbound ramps only. South
of the Bathurst interchange, the Spadina Expressway would have been buried
underneath St. Michael's College with a partial interchange with St. Clair Avenue.
South of St. Clair, the alignment would have continued in the ravine to Spadina
Road. It would have made an interchange at Spadina Road, connecting the freeway
with St. Clair Avenue. The expressway, the rapid transit line, Spadina Road and off-
ramps to Davenport Road would have been placed in a four-story tunnel down the
steep grade to Davenport Road next to Casa Loma. Davenport Road would have
been rebuilt between the expressway and Avenue Road to handle the increased
traffic to the expressway.
South of Davenport Road, the freeway would have crossed the CPR North Toronto
subdivision, and connect with Dupont Street. It would then have ploughed through
the Annex neighbourhood, wiping out most of the houses on Spadina Road. Spadina
Road would have been split into northbound and southbound sections, divided by a
trenched Spadina Expressway. Ramps near Lowther Avenue would have allowed
traffic from the north to have access to Bloor Street. The freeway would have
continued south of Bloor via the Spadina Avenue alignment, with access roads on
both sides to Harbord, where another interchange ramp would have been built. The
freeway would end, feeding into a rebuilt Spadina Avenue at Wilcocks, just north of
Knox College (which would have been demolished to allow for rapid access to the
expressway). The Spadina subway line would be built in the middle of the
expressway, with stations at generally the same locations as today's line. However,
the Dupont station would be built slightly to the west of its present location and
there would be no Spadina station on the Spadina line. A bus loop at Dupont,
connecting the Spadina service roads, would have allowed Route 77 Spadina buses
to turn around and connect with the new subway line.
The 1970 report was also interesting because of the many road reconstructions that
would have been made necessary due to the construction of the expressway. In the
maps, St. Clair Avenue has no streetcar tracks, and connections to the subway
from surface buses would be made at curbside as it is at Glencairn station. Spadina
Avenue would be rebuilt with an island and left turning lanes from the southern
terminus of the expresssway to the Gardiner, which would have eliminated any
chance of putting in a streetcar service. As well, Eglinton West station would have
been a simple single-platform, open-air station with a single bus loop and no
transferless connections. Obviously, the example of St. Clair West showed that the
planners were expecting the abandonment of Toronto's streetcar network by the
time the freeway was to be completed.
On June 3, 1971 cabinet overruled the OMB, effectively killing the Spadina
Expressway extension south of Lawrence Avenue. The new Premier of Ontario,
William Davis made this well known statement in the legislature: "If we are building
a transportation system to serve the automobile, the Spadina Expressway would be
a good place to start. But if we are building a transportation system to serve the
people, the Spadina Expressway would be a good place to stop." This was seen as a
startling turnaround on the part of Bill Davis, nicknamed "Brampton Billy Davis" for
living in that suburban community and commissioning Highway 410 to serve it. The
Allen Expressway was left as a half-built expressway to nowhere. The completed
section north of Lawrence Avenue was only 2 miles (3 km) in length. South of
Lawrence Avenue to Eglinton Avenue, the unfinished section was a big open
unpaved ditch with bridges over it. Many people considered this decision to have
been hasty and a waste of money. Meanwhile, traffic coming off the expressway at
Lawrence Avenue was forced to go down local streets such as Marlee Avenue, using
residential streets instead of the expressway they were intended for. Metro Toronto
was furious at the decision and considered suing the Province for breach of the
1963 contract to build the expressway, but this went nowhere. Meanwhile a
backlash pro-Spadina movement led by resident Esther Shiner began to campaign
for the completion of the expressway.
During the mid to late 1970s, the provincial government attempted to limit
Toronto's growth with the Toronto-Centred Plan, creating two tiers of urban growth
separated by a wide "parkway belt" that stretched between Brampton and
Mississauga to Durham region and the encouragement of intensification of Metro
Toronto. Reality set in, however, and by the 1990s the "parkway belt" was only
wide enough for a hydro corridor and a toll expressway. After the cancellation of
the Allen Expressway, Metro Toronto turned its attention to its next priority, the
eastern extension of the Gardiner Expressway into Scarborough, known as the
Scarborough Expressway, which was also facing opposition from Beach residents.
In response, Metro ordered a complete review of the project studied a new
alignment. Metro also commenced a complete review of its transportation plans.
The study of the Scarborough Expressway proposed an alternative preferred
alignment running along the CN rail Kingston sub from the DVP-Gardiner
interchange all the way past Carlaw, then running through the former Consumers
Gas property southeast of the Broadview/Eastern Avenue intersections, with
interchanges at the Gardiner, Eastern Avenue, Greenwood Avenue, Victoria Park
Avenue and Birchmount Road. This would have reduced the number of homes that
would have to be demolished from 1200 to 710. An alternative at the east end
would place the expressway under Kingston Road east of Markham Road instead of
going through Guildwood as previously planned. A private citizen called Abel Van
Wyk proposed that the expressway be built on a causeway in Lake Ontario parallel
to the Scarborough Bluffs, but this alternative was never seriously considered.
BETWEEN LOGAN & CARLAW LOOKING EAST
WEST OF WOODBINE LOOKING EAST WEST OF DANFORTH LOOKING EAST
SCARBOROUGH EXPRESSWAY PLAN 1973 ALIGNMENT
The plan review produced its report in March 1974 recommending that the
Scarborough Expressway not be built as they saw little need for it at that time and
suggested that public transit alternatives be looked at. Metro then shelved the
expressway and in 1976 rededicated the route as a transportation corridor within
Scarborough only east of Victoria Park Avenue due to the opposition to the route in
the Beach area.
In 1975, the transportation plan review stated that there was deficit of roads in the
northwest sector of Toronto and suggested that Highway 400 be extended either as
an expressway all the way down to the Gardiner Expressway or as an arterial road
to St. Clair Avenue and that the Allen Expressway also be completed as a four-lane
road to Eglinton Avenue. Esther Shiner successfully pushed hard for these options.
The report also stated that the Highway 400 Extension would do a better job than
Spadina as it was further west and away from the core. An alternate route for the
400 Extension as an expressway entirely within the CN/CP rail corridor was
recommended and a study of the route was suggested. Metro knew that another
expressway would be bitterly opposed, so it opted for the arterial road solution,
which it saw as a good compromise.
The 400 Extension, built to Jane Street as a freeway, was extended to Weston Road
and Alliance Avenue as a four lane undivided highway south of Lawrence Avenue
known as Black Creek Drive. It was opened in 1982 and transferred to Metro.
Weston Road, Keele Street and Parkside Drive would connect it south to the lake
shore. This was to be the only new road built in Toronto after 1971.
The Allen Expressway (known as Allen Road after 1980) was extended to Eglinton
via the ramps planned for the interchange. This intersection quickly became
notorious for its backups caused by waits at the traffic signal (sometimes extending
all the way to Lawrence). The extension did serve to remove the heavy load of
traffic on Lawrence and its surrounding streets by transferring it onto Eglinton and
its surrounding streets. Meanwhile, work continued on the rapid transit component
of the Spadina plan and, in January 1978, the Spadina subway line in the centre
median of the Allen Expressway opened. An arterial northern extension of the Allen
to connect to Dufferin Street near Finch Avenue also opened in 1982.
The transportation plan review presented all of its final recommendations in 1975
leading to the adoption of a new official plan for Toronto in 1980 which deleted any
new proposed expressways and contained a clause that the city did not support the
construction of any more expressways. Toronto s expressway-building era was
Previously using white fluorescent lamps, between 1975 and 1980, new yellow-
orange low pressure sodium lighting was installed on all Metro expressways. These
new low pressure sodium lamps were first installed on the Allen Expressway in
1969 as an experiment. They were so successful at cutting night-time accidents,
that they were installed on the Gardiner and Don Valley expressways.
Expressways are unpopular 1975-Present
While the construction of new highways all but ceased in Metro Toronto, the
provincial government continued to build and widen highways in the suburbs.
During the 1960s, the 401 was widened between Markham Road and Islington
Avenue from four lanes to twelve lanes using a collector/express system of ramps
and roadways, copied from the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago. A wide right of
way of 300 feet allowed for the highway to be expanded with little expropriation or
demolition. Today the 401 through Toronto rivals the Santa Monica Expressway in
Los Angeles as North America's busiest.
The collector/express system was installed on Highway 427 south of Highway 401
when it was rebuilt in 1970 and on a short stretch of the Queen Elizabeth Way east
of Highway 427. The province built Highway 404 as a northern extension of the Don
Valley Parkway from the 401 to Steeles Avenue in 1980, then to Major Mackenzie
Drive, and then to Davis Drive in Newmarket. This was to reduce congestion on the
400, which had been widened to six lanes in the early 1970’s.
The Province's Highway 403 (which was also the number of the Chedoke
Expressway in Hamilton, built in the 1960’s) was built from the QEW in Oakville to
the 401 in Mississauga with no Richview extension. It was intended that the two
403’s would be linked by an extension through Oakville and Burlington. This was
finished in 2001, but as an extension of the private toll Highway 407.
In 1986, the 410 was built from Highway 7 West in Brampton to the 401, as an
upgrade of a two lane road. However, it took several years before motorists on the
410 could go west on the 401, or south to the 403. A proposed East Metro Freeway
from 401 to 407 in eastern Toronto was dropped as unnecessary by 1994.
Metro Toronto maintained vacant or near vacant transportation corridors along the
Richview and Scarborough Expressway routes and tried to continue to buy lands
along them. Every time the city went before the Ontario Municipal Board to buy
property along the Scarborough route, it was met by opposition from the local
residents who were led to believe by anti-expressway activists that an expressway
was still planned along the route. However, Metro had made it clear that no such
plans existed any more and that the corridors were being protected for future
transportation uses which could be anything. Therefore each application to buy
property was unsuccessful.
In 1994, Metro Toronto adopted a new official plan and the undefined
transportation corridors were looked at. Uncertainty over their futures produced
demands from the public for a clear statement on what they were intended for. The
Eglinton corridor was continuous and would be retained for a widened Eglinton
Avenue and a future Eglinton rapid transit route. The Scarborough route was not
continuous and was deleted. Improvements to the Kingston Road connection to
Lake Shore Boulevard and Danforth Avenue connection to Gerrard Street were
recommended but never carried out. With the adoption of the 1994 official plan, the
Scarborough and Richview Expressway routes finally died. With the elimination of
the possibility of an eastern extension of the Gardiner Expressway through
Scarborough, the east end of the elevated section of the Gardiner from the Don
River to Leslie Street went nowhere and was demolished by 2001 and replaced by a
new terminus west of Carlaw Avenue. Local residents opposed the demolition due
to the influx of cars it would have on their streets. Metro carried out a review of its
roads system in 1988 and southward extensions of the Allen Road and Leslie Street
and a Front Street extension to connect to the Gardiner Expressway were
recommended. The Allen extension plan was quickly dismissed as a Spadina revival
and the Leslie Street extension went nowhere due to lengthy environmental
assessments. The Front Street Extension continued in the City’s plans as part of
waterfront regeneration but was cancelled in 2008.
In the 1990’s, the low pressure sodium lighting system on Metro’s expressway
system was failing, so it was replaced by 2006 with an up-to-date high pressure
sodium lighting system on a combination of high mast and conventional poles.
Work on Provincial freeways continued. Two more freeways were built in the
Toronto area after the 410, both controversial. The 407, a toll highway, was opened
in 1998 between the 410 and 404 through the "parkway belt". The NDP
government of the early 1990s wanted to have the highway be a toll road to pay for
its construction, using new technology that would eliminate the use of toll booths
by billing car owners monthly based on license plate photos or transponder signals.
When the Conservatives took power in 1995, construction of 407 was accelerated
and in 1999, the highway was leased to a private consortium for a term of 99
years. When the highway was first opened, drivers were given a "free ride" for an
over six months extended period because of technical problems. There was some
difficulty in photographing cars and scanning their licence numbers. There were
several issues that caused controversy. The terms of the lease were kept secret
from the public. As well, the tolls are among the highest in North America, and they
were not revealed to drivers as they entered the highway. As well, when GO Transit
began service on the 407 to serve York University, it was not even given a discount
even though it operated at first 18 trips a day, with multiple entrances and exits on
and off the highway. (The 407 service became so successful that more buses were
added, and a new route to Scarborough Centre was added.)
However, by 2001, extensions were opened to Brock Road in northern Pickering
and to the QEW/403 interchange in Burlington. With the extensions, tolls became
11.5 cents a kilometre, all day, every day and higher for trucks and buses. The
other highway that was opened in the Golden Horseshoe was the Lincoln Alexander
Parkway in Hamilton, named after the former Conservative MP and Lieutenant-
Governor. It is controversial because of a proposed extension to the QEW through
the Red Hill Creek Ravine in East Hamilton. Environmental groups protested the
Red Hill Creek route, however construction was approved and the route opened in
2007. The stopping of municipal expressways in Toronto did not have an effect on
plans for Provincial highways, which continued as planned. In 1997, the Province
transferred Highways 27 and 2A and part of the Queen Elizabeth Way becoming
part of the Gardiner Expressway, to Metro Toronto.
In 1998, the Provincial Government amalgamated Metropolitan Toronto and its six
constituent municipalities into a single City of Toronto as part of municipal reform
taking place all over the province. A new official plan adopted in 2002 reiterated
that no new roads would be built within Toronto.
In late 2001, Toronto City Council killed a motion by councillor Paul Sutherland that
would increase the number of lanes on the Don Valley Parkway, and have the
construction paid for through tolls. This was seen by some observers as a return to
the Spadina Expressway conflict and the City refused to even just study the idea.
The death of Jane Jacobs in 2006 brought the possibility of new influences. Much
uncertainty still exists around the plans for the elevated Gardiner Expressway.
There are several reports that conflict. The Fung report called for a tunnelled
Gardiner between the Exhibition and Spadina Avenue, and a grade level boulevard
to Parliament Street. Other plans call for the tunnel to extend through to the Don
Valley Parkway. The tremendous cost of these proposals made them unachievable.
A 2006 report recommended that the expressway remain as it is west of Spadina
Avenue and be replaced by a 10-lane at-grade boulevard only east of Spadina
Avenue, known as the ‘Great Street’. In 2008, the proposal had shrunk to taking
down the expressway east of Jarvis Street only and replacing this section with an 8-
lane Great Street boulevard. A 5-year assessment of this was approved.
In 2008, plans were also put forward for decking over the Allen Road south of
Highway 401 in order to reunite the neighbourhoods on both sides of it to
compensate for the demolition that took place when the expressway was built.
Provincial freeway construction is to continue. In early 2001, the Provincial
government unveiled its highway construction plan for the Golden Horseshoe.
Highway 407 is to be built to the 35/115 north of Orono. The 404 is being built
towards Lake Simcoe. Eventually it is proposed to extend to Highway 48 near
Beaverton. The 410 is to be extended to Highway 10 north of Mayfield Road. The
427 is also to be extended farther north, possibly as far as Bradford and even
Collingwood. The plan also shows an expressway connecting the Lincoln Alexander
with the QEW near Fort Erie passing through Welland. Another expressway would
run north of the 407 creating a new "Highway 413" running north of the Oak Ridges
Moraine area. With no new roads or highways built within Toronto since the 1970’s,
traffic congestion in Toronto is reaching near gridlock proportions and the city is
losing business rapidly as they flee to the outer suburbs. Citizens groups felt a need
to address this problem. The official response from the City of Toronto was to
improve only public transit and not roads hoping to encourage people not to drive,
thus reducing congestion. The City even approved a massive streetcar LRT system
to help to achieve this. Transit-only initiatives were clearly not working as people
choose not to leave their cars.
A group known as the Citizens Transportation Alliance, later becoming the
transportation committee of the newly-formed municipal reform Toronto Party,
studied the City’s needs in details and came up with a new transportation plan in
2008 called Get Toronto Moving including improvements to all forms of
transportation. They supported extensions of the subway system on Sheppard,
Eglinton and Queen, a network of off-road bicycle trails and two new Provincial
highways within existing corridors only: upgrading Black Creek Drive into a full
Highway 400 Extension expressway and extending it southeasterly along a railway
corridor to downtown from the northwest, and a new Highway 448 along a wide
hydro corridor to connect from the Don Valley Parkway to Highways 401 and 407 in
the east. The elevated Gardiner Expressway would be replaced by a new modern
cable-stayed bridge called the Toronto Waterfront Viaduct above the parallel railway
lines which go through Union Station. Growing dissatisfaction and a desire for
change is increasing the popularity of this plan. Its day will come.
PROPOSED TORONTO WATERFRONT VIADUCT
RAIL CORRIDOR THAT PROPOSED HYDRO CORRIDOR THAT
400 EXTENSION CAN BE BUILT IN PROPOSED 448 CAN BE BUILT IN
TORONTO EXPRESSWAY HISTORY TIMELINE
1943 First expressway plan for Toronto region is created.
1953 Metropolitan Toronto federation formed consisting of the City of Toronto and twelve surrounding
municipalities. Frederick Gardiner becomes the first Metro Chairman.
1954 Construction of the Lake Shore Expressway begins.
1957 Lake Shore Expressway renamed as Frederick G. Gardiner Expressway.
1958 Gardiner Expressway opens from QEW at Humber River to Jameson Avenue. Construction of
Don Valley Parkway begins.
1959 Draft Metropolitan Plan for expressway system adopted.
1961 Don Valley Parkway opens Bloor Street East to Eglinton Avenue East.
1962 Gardiner Expressway opens Jameson Avenue to York Street.
1963 Construction of Spadina Expressway begins.
Don Valley Parkway opened from Eglinton Avenue East to Woodbine Avenue north of Lawrence
1964 Gardiner Expressway opened York Street to Don Valley Parkway at the mouth of the Don River.
Don Valley Parkway opened Bloor Street to Gardiner Expressway.
Four lanes of Spadina Expressway opened Lawrence Avenue West to Yorkdale Road.
Draft Official Plan adopted.
1966 Gardiner Expressway opened Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street.
Don Valley Parkway opened north of Lawrence Avenue East to Highway 401
Spadina Expressway opened Wilson Heights Boulevard to Lawrence Avenue West.
Official Plan of expressways and transit formally adopted.
1967 Don Valley Parkway opened Highway 401 to Woodbine Avenue north of Sheppard Avenue East.
Plans for Gardiner Expressway extension (Scarborough Expressway) Leslie Street to Birchmount
Road approved by Metro Council.
Construction of Spadina Expressway from Lawrence Avenue West to Eglinton Avenue West
Thirteen municipalities within Metropolitan Toronto amalgamated into six.
1968 Urban sociologist Jane Jacobs arrives in Toronto. Stop Spadina campaign gains momentum.
1969 Spadina Expressway renamed William R. Allen Expressway. Construction halted.
1970 Low Pressure Sodium lighting installed on Allen Expressway.
Ontario Municipal Board approved funding to complete Allen Expressway.
1971 Provincial Cabinet cancels further construction of Allen Expressway.
Province halts further land acquisitions for Gardiner Extension (Scarborough Expressway) but
allows Ontario Municipal Board to reopen the issue.
1972 Paving of unfinished Allen Expressway structure from Lawrence Avenue West to Eglinton
Avenue West approved by Metro Council, rejected by the Province.
Metro Council approves construction of the first leg of the Gardiner Extension (Scarborough
Expressway) from Leslie Street to Coxwell Avenue.
ForWard Nine group formed in the east Beach area to fight Gardiner Extension (Scarborough
Metro Council creates Metropolitan Toronto Transportation Plan Review. Orders a complete
redesign of the Gardiner Extension (Scarborough Expressway).
1973 New environmentally-sensitive design and realignment of Gardiner Extension (Scarborough
Expressway) unveiled. Alternatives studied.
Crosstown Expressway scrapped.
1974 Gardiner Extension (Scarborough Expressway) shelved after Plan Review report shows little need
Don Valley Parkway extension north of Highway 401 taken over by the Province.
Metro considers building Highway 400 Extension south to the Gardiner Expressway.
1975 Metropolitan Toronto Transportation Plan Review presents its final report ‘Choices For The
Future’ recommending new roads for Metro’s northwest area.
Extension of Allen Expressway to Eglinton Avenue West as a four lane arterial road and
extension of Highway 400 to St. Clair Avenue West as a four lane arterial road approved by
Metro Council and the Province.
Conversion of all remaining fluorescent lighting on municipal expressways into low pressure
sodium lighting approved.
1976 William R. Allen Road opened from Lawrence Avenue West to Eglinton Avenue West.
Gardiner Extension (Scarborough Expressway) route redesignated as undefined Scarborough
Transportation Corridor east from Victoria Park Avenue only.
Richview Expressway route redesignated as undefined Eglinton Transportation Corridor west
from Scarlett Road.
1977 Speed limits and distances changed from miles to kilometres.
Don Valley Parkway extension opens as Provincial Highway 404.
1979 Construction of Highway 400 Extension arterial road begins. Extension to stretch only as far as
Weston Road just south of Eglinton Avenue West due to objections from the City of Toronto
Repairs on elevated portion of Gardiner Expressway begin. Talk of burial of elevated portion also
1980 Allen Expressway renamed as part of William R. Allen Road.
Construction of Allen Road extension as an arterial road from Wilson Heights Boulevard to
Dufferin Street north of Sheppard Avenue West begins.
New Official Plan adopted, deletes proposed expressways with pro-transit bias.
1982 Highway 400 Extension arterial road opened from Jane Street to Weston Road, transferred to
Metropolitan Toronto and renamed as Black Creek Drive.
Allen Road extension from Wilson Heights Boulevard to Dufferin Street north of Sheppard
1983 Three foot (one metre) strip of land south of southern terminus of Allen Road given to the City of
Toronto to prevent further extension of the expressway.
North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke and York achieve City’status.
1984 Scarborough drops support for a Scarborough Expressway and asks Metro to redesignate
undefined Scarborough Transportation Corridor as a Special Study Area for other uses. Metro
1987 Extension of Allen Road to Davenport Road recommended, but rejected.
1991 Replacement of low pressure sodium lighting on municipal expressways with high pressure
sodium with combination of high mast and conventional poles approved.
1994 New Official Plan adopted, maintains transit bias. Plan deletes undefined Scarborough and
Eglinton Transportation Corridors. Studies of future non-expressway uses of these undefined
1997 Province transfers Queen Elizabeth Way, Highway 27 and Highway 2A to Metropolitan Toronto.
Queen Elizabeth Way becomes part of Gardiner Expressway.
1998 Province amalgamates Metropolitan Toronto and its six constituent municipalities into a single
City of Toronto. Mel Lastman is elected the first Mayor of the new city.
1999 Demolition of elevated Gardiner Expressway from east of Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street
with new ramps west of Carlaw Avenue approved.
2000 Robert Fung waterfront plan recommends demolition of all of elevated Gardiner Expressway to
be replaced with part tunnel and part surface boulevard.
The City of Toronto adopts a Road Classification System for all of its municipal roads. The
Gardiner Expressway, Don Valley Parkway, Allen Road and Highway 2A are classed as
expressways. Black Creek Drive and Highway 27 are classed as major arterial roads. Remaining
roads in the City are classed as major and minor arterial roads, collector roads and local roads.
Proposal to rename Highway 27 as Etobicoke Drive rejected.
2001 Demolition of elevated Gardiner Expressway from east of Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street
completed. New ramps west of Carlaw Avenue opened. Lake Shore Boulevard upgraded and
Properties previously bought for Spadina Expressway south of Eglinton Avenue West are sold
2002 City responds to Fung report by recommending longer tunnel to replace elevated Gardiner
Expressway to keep it as a through route.
New Official Plan adopted for amalgamated City, maintains pro-transit bias and recommends
expansion of dedicated streetcar lanes on City’streets and no new road construction for the next
2003 Private proposal to retain and ameliorate elevated Gardiner Expressway with shops and boutiques
underneath it put forward.
David Miller is elected Mayor of the City of Toronto.
2004 ‘Get Toronto Moving’ private citizen-designed balanced transportation plan for Toronto,
including both new expressways and transit, launched and supported by Canadian Automobile
Association. Rejected by City of Toronto.
2005 Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (T.W.R.C.) recommends removal of the eastern
half of the elevated Gardiner Expressway east of Yonge Street to be replaced by a revamped Lake
Shore Boulevard, but retention of the more heavily-travelled elevated expressway west of Yonge
Street. Debate for a final decision on the future of the elevated portion of the Gardiner
City asks the Province to take back the western portion of the Gardiner Expressway (formerly the
QEW), but is refused.
Backlog of road repairs not yet undertaken in the City of Toronto reaches $300 million.
City of Toronto votes to clear up the road repair backlog over a ten-year period.
2006 Councillor Jane Pitfield challenges David Miller for Mayor of Toronto.
Anti-expressway activist Jane Jacobs dies.
Conversion of municipal expressway lighting from low pressure sodium to high pressure sodium
Greater Toronto Transportation Authority is set up by the Provincial Government to build and
maintain roads and public transit.
Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (T.W.R.C.) recommends demolishing the elevated
Gardiner Expressway east of Spadina Avenue, to become ‘The Great Street’.
Mayor David Miller is returned to office until 2010 promising more transit only.
Province declares all remaining publicly-owned lands in Richview and Scarborough Expressway
corridors as greenbelts that cannot be developed.
2007 A new civic party, called the Toronto Party, is formed to oppose the NDP-dominated City
Council and adopts the ‘Get Toronto Moving’ balanced transportation plan of both new roads and
transit as its policy.
City of Toronto adopts a long-term light rail transit plan, but no roads plan.
The backlog of road repairs continues to grow.
A bicycle path is constructed along the continuous vacant Scarborough Expressway lands east of
An additional vehicle registration tax is approved by the City of Toronto to provide funding for
transit and to address the $300 million backlog of road repairs.
Royal Canadian Legion lobbies the Mayor of Toronto to have the Don Valley Parkway renamed
as the Veterans Memorial Parkway in honour of fallen Canadian servicemen in past wars.
Private architect puts forward a proposal to build a deck over the Allen Road to provide housing
and parks above the expressway south of Lawrence Avenue West.
2008 Fiscal review panel calls for the City of Toronto to look at transferring ownership of the Don
Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway to the Provincial Government in exchange for
hundreds of millions of dollars worth of annual toll revenue.
First attempt at beautification of the elevated Gardiner with the ‘Watertable’ project including
lights simulating waves placed under the Gardiner near Fort York honouring the original
shoreline of Lake Ontario.
Waterfront Toronto (formerly TWRC), with Mayor Miller’s support, recommends tearing down
the elevated Gardiner Expressway from Jarvis Street to the Don Valley Parkway and replacing it
with an 8-lane boulevard. This goes to a five-year environmental assessment.
City of Toronto undertook a study to reconnect the neighbourhoods on both sides of the Allen
Road (or Allen Expressway) north of Lawrence Avenue West to Highway 401 and find ways to
make the expressway fit better into the surrounding residential community.