History of King's Highway 12:
King's Highway 12 is a major arterial highway which runs along the eastern and northern shores of Lake Simcoe through the Regional Municipality of Durham and the County of Simcoe. The highway connects Whitby to Orillia and Midland. For motorists residing in the eastern half of the Greater Toronto Area, Highway 12 is a popular cottage country route to Muskoka and Northern Simcoe County. The highway also serves as an important link in the Central Ontario & Georgian Bay Route of the Trans Canada Highway between Sunderland Corners and Waubaushene.
The history of Highway 12 dates back to the early 1920s, when the Department of Public Highways of Ontario (DPHO) was rapidly expanding the Provincial Highway System by taking over jurisdiction of major trunk roads across Southern, Central and Eastern Ontario. As originally established, the route of Highway 12 connected Whitby to Lindsay (See Map), via Sunderland Corners. A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared dated July 8, 1920, showing the proposed route of the new Provincial Highway through Ontario County (today's Regional Municipality of Durham), while a second Preliminary Route Plan showed the proposed route through Victoria County. The entire highway from Whitby to Lindsay was assumed by the DPHO on January 14, 1922. The new highway began at the Trans-Provincial Highway (Highway 2) in Whitby, ran north to Sunderland Corners and then east to Lindsay. Sections of the road passing through Lindsay and most of Whitby were not assumed by the DPHO and thus those sections of the route remained under municipal jurisdiction. A section of Brock Street through the Town of Whitby was also assumed by the DPHO during 1922. A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared dated May 19, 1922, showing the proposed assumption of the route from the Town of Whitby Limits at Rossland Road southerly to Chestnut Street. The proposed assumption extended the provincially-owned section of Highway 12 through Whitby by almost 1 mile. The assumption of Brock Street in Whitby took place on June 17, 1922. The rest of the route through Whitby was not assumed by the DPHO. The new Whitby-Lindsay Highway was 77 km (48 miles) in length, including the municipally-owned sections within towns. The Whitby-Lindsay Highway was assigned the designation Provincial Highway 12 when route numbers were first introduced on Ontario's Highways in 1925. Provincial Highway 12 was re-designated as King's Highway 12 in 1930.
During the late 1920s, a substantial extension of Highway 12 took place. In 1927, the Sunderland-Lindsay portion of Highway 12 was re-designated as Highway 7. Starting in 1927, the routes of Highway 7 & Highway 12 were overlapped between Brooklin and the turn-off to Lindsay at Sunderland Corners. Highway 12 was then extended north from Sunderland Corners to meet Highway 11 in Orillia (See Map). A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared dated May 27, 1927, showing the proposed route of the new Provincial Highway through Ontario County. However, the original proposal for the route shows a 7 mile gap in the highway through a portion of Thorah Township on the northern and southern approaches to Beaverton. It appears that the DPHO paused to consider which route Highway 12 should follow through Beaverton, or whether the village should be bypassed altogether. With the exception of this portion of the route approaching Beaverton, the balance of the highway between Sunderland and the Atherley Narrows Bridge near Orillia was assumed by the DPHO on August 17, 1927. Ultimately, it was decided that Highway 12 should connect through Beaverton rather than pass beside it. A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared dated November 4, 1927, showing the proposed route of the new Provincial Highway through Thorah Township and the approaches to Beaverton. This section of Highway 12 was assumed by the DPHO on December 28, 1927, thus completing Highway 12 between Sunderland Corners and the Orillia Town Limits at the Atherley Narrows Bridge. The section of Highway 12 through the Village of Beaverton itself was not assumed by the DPHO. A section of Atherley Road through the Town of Orillia was assumed by the DPHO in 1928. A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared dated January 5, 1928, showing the proposed assumption of the route through the eastern part of Orillia. The proposed assumption extended the provincially-owned section of Highway 12 by nearly 2 miles from the Atherley Narrows Bridge to Moffat Street in Orillia. The assumption of Atherley Road in Orillia took place on January 25, 1928. The rest of the route through Orillia was not assumed by the DPHO. The extension of Highway 12 to Orillia brought the total length of the highway up to 105 km (65 miles).
Highway 12 was extended west from Orillia to Midland in the early 1930s. On May 27, 1931, the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) prepared a Preliminary Route Plan for the extension of Highway 12 between Orillia and Midland, via Coldwater. The new Highway 12 Extension to Midland was assumed by the DHO on August 5, 1931. The new highway extension began at Highway 11 in Orillia and then ran west through Coldwater and ultimately connected with Highway 27 in Midland (See Map). Sections of the Highway 12 Extension passing through Orillia, Coldwater, Victoria Harbour and Midland were not assumed by the DHO and thus those sections of the route remained under municipal jurisdiction. A substantial revision was made to the alignment of Highway 12 between Warminster and Coldwater. Approximately 5 miles of Highway 12 was relocated onto a new improved alignment in 1936, in order to bypass the winding original route. By the end of the 1930s, Highway 12 had grown to a total length of 157 km (97.5 miles).
At the time of assumption, Highway 12 was gravel-surfaced for almost its entire length. Paving was completed from just north of Whitby to Brooklin in 1926. Concrete pavement was laid for a distance of 8 miles on Highway 12 between Brooklin and Manchester in 1927, with a further 9 miles of concrete pavement laid between Manchester and Greenbank in 1928. Paving was completed between Greenbank and the Highway 7 turn-off to Lindsay at Sunderland Corners in 1929. Highway 12 was paved from Orillia to the Atherley Narrows Bridge in 1931. Paving work was carried out from the Highway 7 Junction at Sunderland Corners northerly to Beaverton during 1932 and 1933. Highway 12 was paved between Midland and Port McNicoll in 1936. Just over 11 miles of concrete pavement was laid along Highway 12 from Brechin to the Atherley Narrows Bridge in 1937. Highway 12 was paved between Port McNicoll and Waubaushene in 1944 and from Coldwater to Orillia in 1945. Paving was completed between Beaverton and Brechin in 1946. The final gravel section on Highway 12, from Coldwater to Waubaushene, was paved over in 1949.
The western terminus of Highway 12 was adjusted slightly in 1947, when it was extended west to meet the route of Highway 27 (today's Highway 93) leading to Penetanguishene. When Highway 27 was originally assumed in the late 1920s, the route of Highway 27 had two distinct northern termini. The highway split into two different spur routes at a "Y" junction just outside of Midland. One Highway 27 spur continued north to Penetanguishene, while the other Highway 27 spur turned east towards Midland. During 1947, the Highway 12 designation replaced the Highway 27 designation along Yonge Street from Downtown Midland westerly to the "Y" junction at Highway 27. This extension of Highway 12 added another 2 km to the length of the highway, and also eliminated the Midland terminus on Highway 27. The DHO ultimately transferred ownership of this section of Highway 12 (Yonge Street) from Norene Street to the Highway 27 Junction to the Town of Midland on July 24, 1969.
During the 1950s, a new Highway 12 Bypass was constructed around the southern side of Orillia. Construction began on the South Orillia Bypass in 1956 and the route was completed and opened to traffic in 1958. The South Orillia Bypass was constructed as a two-lane highway diversion which began near the Atherley Narrows Bridge and continued westerly to the West Orillia Bypass (Highway 11). The West Orillia Bypass was built as a four-lane freeway to allow all through traffic on Highway 11 and Highway 12 to bypass Orillia entirely. Starting in 1958, Highway 12 was relocated onto the new South Orillia Bypass and was routed concurrently with Highway 11 along the West Orillia Bypass. The old route of Highway 12 through Downtown Orillia (via Coldwater Road, Front Street, and Atherley Road) became Highway 12B. Bypasses were also built around Beaverton, Gamebridge, Coldwater and Waubaushene. The Waubaushene Bypass was completed in 1949, while the Coldwater Bypass was completed in June, 1960. The old route of Highway 12 through Coldwater (via Coldwater Road and Sturgeon Bay Road) became Highway 12B. A diversion was completed around Gamebridge in August, 1961. The old route of Highway 12 through Gamebridge (via Talbot Road) became Highway 12B. In the mid-1960s, a new bypass was constructed around the eastern side of Beaverton. The new route for Highway 12 via the Beaverton Bypass diverted through traffic away from the awkward former route of the highway through Beaverton (See Map). The Beaverton Bypass was completed and opened to traffic on November 4, 1966. Most of the old route of Highway 12 through Beaverton was incorporated into the Beaverton Business Loop, which was designated as Highway 48B in 1966. A short section of Old Highway 12 lying west of the Beaverton Bypass was re-designated as Highway 48.
Generally speaking, the DHO did not assume ownership of urban sections of Highway 12. Non-assumed sections of the route included portions of the highway passing through Whitby, Beaverton, Orillia, Coldwater, Victoria Harbour and Midland. By the 1960s, however, most of these towns had been bypassed by diversions of Highway 12. During the 1960s, the DHO established Municipal Connecting Link Agreements with the various towns, which provided cost-sharing mechanisms for major capital construction upgrades to the section of highway lying within the town. A section of Highway 12 lying within Whitby, from Chestnut Street to Rossland Road, was transferred to the Town of Whitby on April 30, 1960. The non-assumed section of Highway 12 (Brock Street) between the Highway 401 Interchange and Rossland Road in Whitby was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective July 7, 1960. A Municipal Connecting Link was designated along Highway 12 through Beaverton by an Order-in-Council on November 5, 1959. The route of Highway 12 through Beaverton followed Osborne Street, Simcoe Street and Mara Road. An Order-in-Council was passed on June 15, 1961, which established a Municipal Connecting Link along Highway 12 through Victoria Harbour. Originally, the route of Highway 12 through Victoria Harbour followed William Street, Albert Street, Richard Street, King Street, Jephson Street and Victoria Street. An Order-in-Council passed on April 14, 1965, established a new route of Highway 12 through Victoria Harbour as a Municipal Connecting Link. The new route followed William Street, Albert Street, Richard Street and Victoria Street. The route of Highway 12 through Midland (King Street and Young Street) was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective April 5, 1966.
Several major changes were made to the route of Highway 12 during the 1970s. A new route of Highway 12 was established between Midland and Victoria Harbour. The DHO assumed ownership of the Evergreen Sideroad (Simcoe County Road 31) between Highway 27 and the existing route of Highway 12 (King Street) in Midland. An Assumption Plan was prepared on December 7, 1970 and registered on April 15, 1971, showing the DHO's proposed assumption of Evergreen Sideroad as the Midland Bypass. The new Midland Bypass was approximately 3 km in length and was designated as a King's Highway by an Order-in-Council dated May 5, 1971. A bypassed, provincially-owned section of Old Highway 12 (King Street) from the former Town Limits near Robert Street to the Highway 12 Bypass was transferred to the Town of Midland, effective August 16, 1974. Under an Order-in-Council dated September 10, 1974, the Municipal Connecting Link designation was extended south along King Street to include this section of Old Highway 12 via King Street. Strangely, the old route of Highway 12 through Midland via King Street and Yonge Street was not assigned a Highway 12B designation, even though it remained a Municipal Connecting Link until the 1980s. The Municipal Connecting Link through the Town of Midland was formally repealed by an Order-in-Council, effective July 1, 1982. The rest of Highway 12 from just east of Midland to Victoria Harbour was reconstructed on a mostly new alignment in the mid-1970s. The new Highway 12 opened to traffic in 1977. The old route of Highway 12 through Victoria Harbour briefly became Highway 12B.
The route of Highway 12 did not change much between the late 1970s and the late 1990s. However, in 1997, the province downloaded two sections of Highway 12 to the Regional Municipality of Durham and the County of Simcoe. On March 31, 1997, the provincially-owned section of Highway 12 between Rossland Road and a point just north of Spencers Road near Brooklin was transferred to the Regional Municipality of Durham. The former highway was renamed as Durham Regional Highway 12. Also, a section of Highway 12 in the Fesserton area was transferred to the County of Simcoe. The section of Highway 12 between Simcoe County Road 23 (Vasey Road) and Highway 400 was transferred to Simcoe County, effective March 31, 1997. The old section of Highway 12 through Fesserton was subsequently renamed as Simcoe County Road 16. In the late 1990s, an attempt was made to reunite the discontinuous sections of Highway 12 by signing the route concurrently with Highway 400 between Exit #141 at Coldwater and Exit #147 at Waubaushene. Signing at the two Highway 12 Interchanges along Highway 400 was rather inconsistent, and ultimately, the Highway 12 overlap was discontinued and replaced with "TO 12" signs placed along Simcoe Road 16. In 2014, the route numbering mess was finally resolved after many years of confusing and ambiguous Highway 12 signing between Coldwater and Waubaushene. That year, the Ministry of Transportation erected a comprehensive and clearly-marked overlapped route of Highway 12 & Highway 400 between Coldwater and Waubaushene.
Highway 12 traverses a predominantly rural portion of Southern and Central Ontario, although it does pass through several towns along its route. The principal towns located along the highway are Whitby, Beaverton, Orillia and Midland. An 86 km section of Highway 12 between Waubaushene and Sunderland Corners serves as a link in the Trans Canada Highway. Services along Highway 12 appear quite frequently. Most sections of Highway 12 are two lanes, but some undivided four-lane sections exist through towns along the highway's 146 km route. The 2.4 km portion of Highway 12 which is signed concurrently with Highway 11 along the West Orillia Bypass and the 5.9 km section of Highway 12 signed concurrently with Highway 400 between Coldwater and Waubaushene are four-lane freeways with a posted speed limit of 100 km/h (60 mph). The speed limit on other portions of Highway 12 is 80 km/h (50 mph), unless posted otherwise. Please visit the Highway 12 Mileage Chart page for a list of mileage reference points along Highway 12.
Winter Driving Tip: Highway 12 is occasionally closed during periods of poor winter weather north of Beaverton, due to blowing and drifting snow. Blowing snow will often result in zero-visibility conditions. The weather conditions on this highway can deteriorate very rapidly when snowsqualls blow in from nearby Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay. On cold, windy days, it is a good idea to check the Road Closures and Winter Road Conditions pages on the Ministry of Transportation's Website, or verify road conditions by telephone at 1-800-268-4686 or 5-1-1 before using Highway 12 north of Beaverton.
Additional Information About King's Highway 12: