History of King's Highway 6:
King's Highway 6 is a major trunk highway which traverses the entire width of Southern Ontario from Port Dover on Lake Erie to Tobermory, at the tip of the Bruce Peninsula. The highway also has a discontinuous northern section which extends from South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island northerly to Espanola. The highway passes through a predominantly rural area, occasionally passing through some cities and small towns. The principal towns located along the highway are Port Dover, Caledonia, Hamilton, Guelph, Fergus, Mount Forest, Owen Sound and Espanola. At a length of nearly 475 km, Highway 6 is one of the longest provincial highways in Ontario.
The highway was first established in 1920 when the road from Hamilton to Owen Sound, via Mount Forest and Guelph was assumed as a provincial highway. The highway was extended from Hamilton to Port Dover in 1927 and from Owen Sound to Tobermory in 1937. In 1980, Highway 6 assumed the route of Highway 68 across Manitoulin Island and northerly to Espanola. In 1997-1998, two adjustments were made to the route of Highway 6, which shortened the length of the highway to 479 km from 487 km. Highway 6 assumed the former route of Highway 70 between Hepworth and Owen Sound. In addition, a short section of Highway 6 from Port Dover to Highway 24 was downloaded to the Regional Municipality of Haldimand-Norfolk, effective March 31, 1997. In 2004, a major realignment of Highway 6 was completed south of Hamilton. The new highway alignment connects directly to Highway 403 and bypasses Old Hwy 6 (Upper James Street). The route of Highway 6 runs concurrently with Highway 403 for 12 km between the North and South Highway 6 junctions, but the route is merely signed as "TO 6" in the southbound direction only. A short section of Highway 6 is routed concurrently with Highway 401 between Morriston and the Hanlon Parkway near Guelph.
The discontinuous north and south sections of Highway 6 are linked by a toll ferry service from May to October. The Chi-Cheemaun ferry carries vehicles across Georgian Bay from Tobermory to South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island. The ferry service is operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company. The Chi-Cheemaun is the largest ferry in operation in Ontario, with capacity for 143 regular-sized vehicles and 638 passengers. The ferry makes at least three trips across the channel daily. One additional afternoon sailing is offered during the peak summer months. The ferry takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to cross. To view up-to-date ferry schedules and fares, please visit the Chi-Cheemaun Ferry Website operated by the Owen Sound Transportation Company. The Chi-Cheemaun ferry service is the only way to reach Manitoulin Island from Southern Ontario, although year-round highway access is available from the north, via Little Current and Espanola.
Highway 6 is mostly a two-lane highway, although some sections are multi-lane and are controlled access. The Caledonia Bypass was completed in 1982. This 6 km bypass is a two-lane arterial highway, with full access control and grade separations at all intersecting roads. Another semi-controlled access section of Highway 6 was completed in 2004, when a substantial portion of Highway 6 was relocated south of Hamilton. The new highway provides improved access to Highway 403 and to John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport. The highway is a partially controlled access two-lane highway, with grade separations at most intersecting roads. Eventually, this new section of Highway 6 south of Hamilton will be linked up to the Caledonia Bypass, which will divert traffic off of the busy four-lane undivided highway which currently exists between Caledonia and Mount Hope. A section of Highway 6 from Hamilton to Clappison's Corners was converted into a freeway between 2006 and 2009. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is also planning to replace the congested traffic signal at Clappison's Corners (Highway 5) with an interchange within the next few years. The remainder of Highway 6 from Clappison's Corners to Puslinch is a four-lane undivided highway. Planning is currently underway to bypass Puslinch and Morriston with a new alignment of Highway 6. This new bypass will provide much-needed relief for the existing highway between Puslinch and Highway 401, which has become hopelessly congested over the past decade.
From Highway 401 to Highway 7, Highway 6 follows the Hanlon Parkway, a four-lane expressway which passes through Guelph. Unfortunately, the Hanlon Parkway is plagued by numerous at-grade signalized intersections which can seriously disrupt traffic flow at peak periods. The MTO is studying options to reconstruct the Hanlon Parkway as a proper freeway, but construction is still many years away. This is mostly due to the complex planning needed to accommodate the new highway in a restricted urban environment and the numerous stakeholders involved in the project.
Highway 6 is a two-lane road from Guelph to Espanola, although some short undivided four-lane sections exist near towns. Passing lanes appear periodically along Highway 6, particularly between Guelph and Durham. Services along Highway 6 are generally quite plentiful, except in some of the rural areas between Fergus and Owen Sound, where services are somewhat scarce outside of communities. The northern sections of Highway 6 from Wiarton to Espanola are surprisingly remote, with services appearing very infrequently except in communities. Unless posted otherwise, the speed limit on Highway 6 is 80 km/h (50 mph).
Winter Driving Tip: The central sections of Highway 6 are known for poor winter road conditions. The highway is occasionally closed during periods of poor winter weather between Fergus and Owen Sound, 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 Huron. 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 before using the central portion of Highway 6.
Additional Information About King's Highway 6: