History of King's Highway 400:
King's Highway 400 is the primary north-south highway route from Toronto to the vast recreational and resort areas of Central and Northeastern Ontario. Since the highway's completion between Toronto and Barrie in 1952, the highway has steadily increased in importance and it has now become one of Ontario's most essential transportation corridors. The road carries thousands of holiday-bound motorists every weekend in addition to countless numbers of weekday commuters, who work in the Greater Toronto Area but prefer the leisurely lifestyle of cottage country. The highway also carries a considerable volume of trucks to and from Ontario's resource-rich north. This highway has had a profound impact on the accessibility of northern recreational areas for tourists and cottagers alike.
The concept of a new divided highway from Toronto to Barrie first surfaced in the 1930s, but the highway was not constructed until after World War II. Before Highway 400 was built, all traffic heading north from Toronto towards Barrie had to take either Highway 11 or Highway 27. Summer weekend traffic congestion was a problem on both of these two-lane highways, as the roads passed through many towns along their routes. The new Toronto-Barrie Highway was designed as a four-lane divided highway, on a brand new alignment. All major intersecting roads were grade-separated, and traffic interchanges were designed at various locations along the proposed route. Construction began on the new dual highway in 1946, when a series of grading contracts were awarded to construct a new divided highway for a distance of 46 miles (74 km) from Wilson Avenue in North York Township northerly to Highway 27 (Essa Road) south of Barrie. Grading work was 70% completed by the end of 1946, and a start was made on several bridge structures along the new highway. In continuation of the design practices used for structures on the Toronto-Oshawa Highway (Highway 401), most bridges designed for the new Toronto-Barrie Highway featured the Ontario coat-of-arms embossed into both sides of the bridge's fascia. Due to Post-War shortages of structural steel, many of the bridges along the highway sat incomplete for several years. The new Toronto-Barrie Highway was legally designated as a "Controlled-Access Highway" (CAH) in 1948. At the time of its designation, the Toronto-Barrie Highway was the longest CAH in Ontario.
The Toronto-Barrie Highway was opened to traffic in 1951, after nearly six years of construction. Two lanes of the highway were made available to traffic on September 6, 1951, when the northbound lanes of the divided highway were opened. All traffic was temporarily carried on a gravel-surfaced single carriageway, while the southbound lanes of the highway were being paved. The southbound lanes were completed and opened to traffic on December 1, 1951, after which time the northbound lanes were closed temporarily for paving. Two-way traffic was carried on the single southbound carriageway throughout the winter of 1951-1952. Paving work resumed on the Toronto-Barrie Highway in the spring. All four lanes of the new highway were completed and opened to traffic on June 30, 1952, just in time for the busy Dominion Day Weekend. This first phase of the Toronto-Barrie Highway ended at the Highway 27 Interchange south of Barrie. Since 1950, construction had been underway on the Barrie Bypass. This extension of the Toronto-Barrie Highway looped around the western side of Barrie and connected to Highway 11 & Highway 93 at Crown Hill. The bypass allowed through traffic bound for Highway 11 to avoid the congested route of Highway 11 & Highway 27 through Downtown Barrie. The Barrie Bypass opened to traffic in August, 1952. A cloverleaf interchange was opened to traffic in North York Township at the junction of the Toronto-Barrie Highway and Toronto Bypass just south of Wilson Avenue in 1952. Shortly after the new dual highway opened to traffic, the Toronto-Barrie Highway was designated as Highway 400 between Toronto and Crown Hill by the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO). Highway 400 thus became the first of Ontario's superhighways to receive the prestigious "400-Series" designation. At the time, the 400-Series designation signified to motorists that the route was a four-lane divided highway. Of course, many of Ontario's 400-Series Highways have since been widened, and often have more than four traffic lanes today.
The new Highway 400 provided a fast through route which bypassed all of the towns between Toronto and Barrie. Initially, the entire highway was four lanes, with two lanes provided for each direction of travel. The dual carriageways were separated by a narrow grass median. Two new highway service centres, a first for Ontario, were constructed along Highway 400 in 1953-1954. One was located at the King City Sideroad Cloverleaf, selling Shell Oil Products, while the other was located at the Cookstown Road (Highway 89) Cloverleaf selling British-American Oil products. The Cookstown Service Centre operated continuously for nearly 60 years, until it was closed and relocated to a new site further north in 2013. The King City Sideroad Service Centre was closed and relocated to a new site near Kirby Road during the 1970s.
The completion of the Trans-Canada Highway to Sudbury in the late 1950s prompted highway designers with the DHO to plan for a northerly extension of Highway 400 to provide improved access to Sudbury. The Highway 400 Extension continued north from Barrie and joined up with the Trans-Canada Highway near Coldwater. The Highway 400 Extension was initially completed as an undivided two-lane highway, but sufficient right-of-way was acquired so that the highway could be expanded to four lanes in the future. The Highway 400 Extension from Barrie to Coldwater was completed and opened to traffic on December 23, 1959. Initially, the DHO had envisioned Highway 400 continuing northeasterly from Coldwater to Gravenhurst. In the early 1960s, the proposed highway corridor was surveyed and plans for the new CAH were designated. The new route would have connected to Highway 11 just south of Gravenhurst. However, the proposed highway corridor between Coldwater and Gravenhurst was never built. By the mid-1970s, the proposed Coldwater-Gravenhurst route had been superceded by a new route for Highway 400 from Coldwater to Waubaushene which linked directly to Highway 69. It was felt that this new Highway 400 route via Waubaushene, in conjunction with improvements to the Highway 11 corridor, would best serve the highway transportation needs of this area.
Highway 400 was also extended southerly from Highway 401 to Jane Street in the mid-1960s, as part of a plan to create a large network of freeways across Toronto. The Highway 400 South Extension to Jane Street was officially opened to traffic on October 28, 1966. The plan to extend Highway 400 south from Jane Street towards Downtown Toronto was extensively revised during the 1970s, when many of the proposed Toronto freeway projects were being cancelled. The proposed Highway 400 Extension to Weston Road was scaled back considerably. Ultimately, it was constructed as a limited-access arterial road in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The road was known initially as the Northwest Metro Arterial Road, but was later renamed Black Creek Drive. The province transferred ownership of Black Creek Drive to Metropolitan Toronto on February 25, 1982.
By the 1960s, weekend traffic congestion was becoming a problem on Highway 400 between Toronto and Barrie. In response to the recurring traffic congestion, Highway 400 was widened from four to six lanes between Toronto and Barrie in 1971 and 1972. Rather than widen the highway to the outside, the extra lanes were added to Highway 400 by filling in the median drainage ditch. A median storm sewer was constructed and a new "box-beam" median barrier was installed, which marked the debut of this median barrier system in Ontario. The Highway 400 Extension from Barrie to Coldwater was gradually widened from two to four lanes during the late 1970s and early 1980s. This highway widening project was continued beyond the northern terminus of Highway 400 during the 1990s, as Highway 69 from the Waubaushene area northerly towards Parry Sound was widened to four lanes. Generally, this was accomplished by "twinning", where a new two-lane highway was built beside the existing highway in order to create a four-lane divided highway. Sections of Highway 400 in Toronto have also been widened over the past 25 years. The highway is now a minimum of eight lanes (four lanes per direction) from Highway 401 northerly to Major Mackenzie Drive. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is planning to eventually widen Highway 400 from six to eight lanes (four lanes per direction) from Major Mackenzie Drive northerly to the Highway 11 Junction in Barrie, with a ten-lane highway being considered through Barrie from Essa Road to Bayfield Street. The preliminary design phase for this proposed highway reconstruction project is now complete, but construction is still many years away because the detailed design phase must be completed before any work can be done. The detailed design phase could take a considerable amount of time to complete, due to the complex nature and overall size of this proposed highway project.
A construction project began in 2009 to reconfigure the King Road Interchange north of Toronto. This reconstruction project was completed in 2010. It was the first of several projects now being planned for the Highway 400 corridor which will ultimately allow for the highway to be widened from Toronto northerly to Barrie. Another project began in 2015 to replace the Highway 9 Interchange and South Holland Canal Bridge on Highway 400 west of Newmarket. In addition, the vintage Coulson Road Overpass was demolished and replaced with a widened structure in 2015. As part of the future Highway 400 widening project, one lane in each direction will be designated as a High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Carpool Lane between Major Mackenzie Drive and King Road. Construction of the new HOV Lanes from Major Mackenzie Drive to King Road is not expected to begin until sometime after 2020. Additional HOV Lanes are now being considered for other sections of Highway 400. These HOV Lanes will be incorporated into future planning for this highway as various sections of Highway 400 come up for reconstruction over the next two decades.
Since 1997, sections of Highway 69 between Port Severn and Parry Sound have been renumbered as Highway 400. This renumbering is taking place gradually, as the various two-lane sections of Highway 69 are rebuilt as a four-lane highway. Presently, Highway 400 ends at the Highway 559 Interchange north of Parry Sound, which marks the current end of the four-lane highway. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation plans to eventually rebuild all remaining two-lane sections of Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury as a continuous four-lane divided highway. The four-laning of Highway 69 from Parry Sound to Sudbury is still mostly in the planning phases, although two major projects were completed recently. The section of Highway 69 from Mill Lake Narrows northerly to Highway 559 (the Nobel Bypass) was completed and opened to traffic on October 26, 2010. Another section, from Estaire northerly to Crown Ridge (located about 4 km south of Highway 17 in Sudbury) was completed in November, 2009. A new highway widening project began in 2008 from the Murdock River to Estaire, which was completed in 2012. Construction got underway in 2012 on twinning the existing Highway 69 from a point south of the Highway 64 Junction to the Murdock River. This section of the freeway was completed in August, 2016, and included a new interchange with Highway 64. Construction began in 2016 on another section of twinning from a point south of the Highway 64 Interchange southerly to the Highway 522 Junction. All other sections of Highway 69 are still in the planning phases, so no construction schedule has yet been announced. The Highway 400 designation will continue to replace the Highway 69 designation as the four-lane highway gradually advances north from Parry Sound.
The speed limit on Highway 400 is 100 km/h (60 mph), unless posted otherwise. There are 4 Service Centres located along Highway 400. These centres are open 24 hours a day and offer motorists convenient access to fuel, restaurants and picnic areas. The northbound service centres are located at King City (north of Exit #37) and in Barrie (north of Exit #90). The southbound service centres are located at King City (south of Exit #43) and south of Innisfil Beach Road (south of Exit #85). Services are surprisingly scarce north of Barrie. There are no gas stations from Port Severn to Horseshoe Lake (just south of Parry Sound), except at the MacTier Exit (Exit #189). Exits along Highway 400 are numbered based on their distance from Downtown Toronto. Approximate distances along the highway can therefore be calculated by subtracting one exit number from another. For example, the distance from Highway 401 (Exit #21) to Highway 93 (Exit #121) is 100 km (121 - 21 = 100). Please visit the Highway 400 Mileage Chart page for a list of interchange numbers along Highway 400.
Winter Driving Tip: The northern section of Highway 400 is known for poor winter road conditions during snowsqualls. While the highway is seldom closed due to weather conditions, it can be a very unpleasant and treacherous drive during the winter 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 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 400.
Additional Information About King's Highway 400: