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 highway from Toronto to Barrie first surfaced in the 1930s, but the highway was not constructed until after World War II. The new Toronto-Barrie Highway was designed as a controlled-access four-lane divided highway, with interchanges at all major intersecting roads. The Toronto-Barrie Highway was designated as Highway 400 in 1952, shortly after the new highway opened to traffic. Before Highway 400 was completed, 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 highways, as the roads passed through many towns along their routes. 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. Originally, Highway 400 ended at the junction of Highway 11 and Highway 93, just north of Barrie. The completion of the the Trans-Canada Highway to Sudbury in the late 1950s prompted highway designers 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. 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 completed as a limited-access arterial road in 1982, known as Black Creek Drive.
By the 1960s, weekend congestion was becoming a problem on Highway 400 between Toronto and Barrie. Highway 400 was widened to six lanes between Toronto and Barrie in 1971 and 1972. The Highway 400 Extension from Barrie to Coldwater was gradually widened to four lanes during the 1970s and 1980s. This highway widening project was continued beyond the northern terminus of Highway 400 during the 1990s, as Highway 69 from the Coldwater area northerly towards Parry Sound was widened to four lanes. 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 now planning to widen Highway 400 from six to eight lanes (four lanes per direction) from Major Mackenzie Drive 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. From Major Mackenzie Drive to King Road, one lane in each direction will be designated as a High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) Carpool Lane. 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 old two-lane highway is 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 south of the Highway 64 Junction to the Murdock River. 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.
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 #35) and in Barrie (north of Exit #90). The southbound service centres are located at King City (south of Exit #43) and at Highway 89 (at Exit #75). 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). The posted speed limit on Highway 400 is 100 km/h (60 mph). 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.
Additional Information About King's Highway 400:
Learn More About King's Highway 400 (My Upcoming Publications)
King's Highway 400 - Route Information (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)
King's Highway 400 - A Virtual Tour (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)