History of King's Highway 69:
King's Highway 69 has had the most turbulent and complicated past of any King's Highway in Ontario. The road has gone from a minor gravel two-lane rural highway to a major arterial route. In many places, the highway has been (or soon will be) upgraded to a four lane divided freeway. Most of the highway became part of the Trans-Canada Highway System in 1960. The highway has seen numerous major re-routings and realignments since it was first commissioned.
The history of Highway 69 dates back to 1936, when the Rama Road between Atherley and Washago was designated as a new provincial highway. This probably comes as a surprise to most readers, who are more familiar with the present-day Highway 69, which begins nearly 80 km northwest of its original location. The original road and the modern road do, however, share a common past despite the huge distance which has since grown between the routes. In 1937, the Department of Highways (DHO) assumed responsibility for the trunk road heading northwest from Gravenhurst up to Parry Sound and Pointe-au-Baril, via Bala and MacTier. The new highway from Gravenhurst to Pointe-au-Baril was designated as a portion of Highway 69. A short section of Highway 11 from Washago to Gravenhurst was signed concurrently with Highway 69. Furthermore, the 38 km Burwash Road south of Sudbury was also designated as Highway 69. The intention was that these two separated routes would be linked together in the near future. By the end of 1937, Highway 69 had grown from 18 km to 189 km in length. By 1940, Highway 69 had been extended north from Pointe-au-Baril to Britt. The outbreak of World War II halted all new work on Highway 69 due to shortages of supplies and labour.
In the early 1950s, planning work was carried out to identify possible routes for the federally sponsored Trans-Canada Highway project. The proposed Central Ontario/Georgian Bay route had a loop of the Trans-Canada Highway pass through Central Ontario from Ottawa along Highway 7 and Highway 12, and then swing north along Highway 69 to meet up with the Ottawa Valley route of the Trans-Canada Highway (Highway 17) in Sudbury. It was suggested that a new route through the District of Muskoka be constructed as the Trans-Canada Highway, as a short section of Highway 11 & Highway 69 north of Washago was already overburdened by regular cottage country traffic. The bottleneck in question was the bridge at Severn River, which was the only highway route connecting Southern Muskoka and Toronto. It was decided that a new Trans-Canada route should be constructed to link Highway 69 and Highway 12. The easiest solution to the routing problem was to extend Highway 103 northerly from Port Severn to meet up with Highway 69 at Foot's Bay, near MacTier. Work began on a northerly extension of Highway 103 in the mid-1950s.
In the meantime, another gap existed in Highway 69 between Britt and Burwash. Work resumed in the early 1950s to complete this gap. With the completion of Highway 69 to the French River, motorists could travel from Severn Bridge to Sudbury much more directly than had been previously possible. Until the road was completed, motorists had to endure a longer, circuitous route via North Bay when traveling to Sudbury. However, it was not until 1955 that motorists could drive directly to Sudbury. For a number of years, motorists still had to detour via the Noelville and Hagar road to bypass the section of Highway 69 that was under construction between Alban and Burwash. In 1955, the final gap in Highway 69 between the French River and Burwash was completed and opened to traffic.
During the early 1950s, the southern portion of Highway 69 was rerouted via a somewhat longer (25 km) but more practical routing south of Washago. Rather than follow the Rama Road, the road was realigned, intersecting Highway 12 at a point 16 km to the east of its old terminus at Atherley. The original section of Highway 69 was decommissioned as a King's Highway and is now known as Simcoe County Road 44. In 1956, Highway 69 was extended from Sudbury northerly for 33 km along the Capreol Road. By the end of 1956, Highway 69 had grown to 318 km in length. During the 1950s and early 1960s, new straighter alignments of Highway 69 were constructed between Foot's Bay and Gordon Bay, the Shebeshekong Road and Shawanaga, and between Pointe-au-Baril and Byng Inlet. The old Highway 69 alignment between Shebeshekong Road and Shawanaga became Secondary Highway 559, while the old alignment between Pointe-au-Baril and Byng Inlet became Secondary Highway 529. In 1961, a new bypass was completed around Parry Sound. The old route of Highway 69 through downtown became Highway 69B. In the 1970s, Highway 69 was shortened by 8 km in the Sudbury area, when the highway was truncated at Hanmer.
In order to improve the logic of the area's highway numbering, Highway 69 assumed the entire routing of Highway 103 in 1976. In turn, the section of Highway 69 between Foot's Bay and Highway 12 near Brechin became Highway 169. The length of Highway 69 was shortened to 282 km as a result of this highway renumbering. In the early 1980s, Highway 69 was shortened once again, when the old route of the highway through Sudbury was decommissioned and turned over to the District Municipality of Sudbury. Highway 69 was truncated at the Sudbury Southwest Bypass, while the road leading north towards Sudbury and Hanmer became Sudbury District Road 80. The Sudbury Southwest Bypass was a partial ring road that was completed in the 1970s to divert Highway 69 traffic away from Downtown Sudbury. The ring road was completed in 1995 and became a part of Highway 17. The Parry Sound Bypass was rebuilt and extended in the early 1990s, providing a new interchange at Highway 124 and improvements to the highway's alignment between Parry Sound and Nobel. This essentially turned Highway 69 into a "Super-2" (an undivided two-lane expressway) between Mill Lake and the south limits of Nobel.
In 1987, construction began on a multi-year project to four-lane Highway 69 from the junction of Highway 400 and Highway 12 at Waubaushene northerly to Parry Sound. Since that time, work to four-lane Highway 69 to Parry Sound and Nobel has continued unabated. In 1988, a second bridge over Highway 12 was built to allow the dual roadways of Highway 400 to pass over Highway 12. Previously, only a single two-lane bridge existed at this location. Throughout the 1990s, a new roadway was constructed beside the existing highway from Highway 12 northerly to Muskoka District Road 32. This process, called "twinning", is a simple way of creating a dual highway. The existing Highway 69 became the northbound lanes of the new four-lane highway, while sounthbound traffic is accommodated on the new roadway. A portion of existing Highway 69 was bypassed during this project, and this section became part of Muskoka District Road 34 and an access road to Six Mile Lake Provincial Park. A decision was made in the mid-1990s to renumber the new freeway section of Highway 69 from Waubaushene to the end of the divided highway near Crooked Bay Road as Highway 400. The highway renumbering was carried out April 1, 1997. On that day, Highway 69 was shortened to 218 km. By the close of the 1990s, Highway 69 had been renumbered as Highway 400 to the Musquash River, south of MacTier.
In 1999, work commenced on upgrading the Parry Sound Bypass into a proper freeway. A new route for the freeway was selected that would lead Highway 69 away from the existing highway alignment just north of Badger Road, and rejoin again at Bowes Street. Work began on this section of freeway in late 1999, and was completed in November 2001. The work has resulted in a 14 km long freeway section on Highway 69, with three new interchanges. The old alignment of Highway 69 is now known as Highway 7241 (Oastler Park Drive). In 2000, construction began on a new highway corridor between the Moon River Bridge and Badger Road. The first phase of this project was completed in October 2002 from Badger Road to Horseshoe Lake (near Highway 141), while the second phase was completed between the Moon River Bridge and Horseshoe Lake on October 7, 2003. The new freeway from Moon River to Horseshoe Lake was not numbered as Highway 69, but was immediately designated as Highway 400. The old bypassed alignment of Highway 69 between Moon River and Horseshoe Lake was retained in the King's Highway System, and remained posted as Highway 69 until 2012. In September 2012, the bypassed section of Highway 69 from MacTier to Horseshoe Lake was given an unposted 7000-Series Highway Designation and renamed as Lake Joseph Road. The opening of the new highway from Moon River to Horseshoe Lake on October 7, 2003 did result in a 9 km section of Highway 69 being signed concurrently (albeit temporarily) with Highway 400 from the Musquash River to the Moon River. In addition, the existing twinned section of Highway 69 from Mill Lake Narrows southerly to Horseshoe Lake was also signed concurrently as Highway 69 & Highway 400 up until September 2012, when the freeway was renumbered as Highway 400 only.
The four-laning of Highway 69 between the Musquash River Bridge and the Moon River Bridge was stalled considerably between 1997 and 2003 due to treaty negotiations with the Wahta (Gibson River) First Nation. An agreement between the Wahta First Nation and the Ontario & Federal Government was finally reached on May 30, 2003. This agreement finally permitted the construction of a four-lane highway from the Musquash River northerly to the Moon River. Contracts were awarded in late 2004 to begin construction on this highway widening project through the Wahta First Nation. This project was completed in June 2008, thereby completing the four-lane freeway from Waubaushene to Parry Sound. At the completion of the highway construction project, the Highway 69 designation was removed from the new route of Highway 400 between the Musquash River and the Moon River. In September 2012, the Highway 69 designation was removed from all twinned section of the highway from Horseshoe Lake to Nobel. Highway 69 now ends where the four-lane highway (Highway 400) terminates about 2 km north of the Highway 559 Interchange (Exit #241) in Nobel. This route renumbering has shortened Highway 69 to only 138 km, which is significant because this is the first time since the late 1930s that the length of Highway 69 has dropped below 140 km.
The Ontario Government has announced its intentions to eventually convert the entire length of Highway 69 from Parry Sound to Sudbury into a four-lane divided highway. The four-laning of Highway 69 north of Parry Sound to Sudbury is still mostly in the planning phases, but there are two sections which are currently under construction. In 2005, construction began on a new Highway 69 corridor from Sudbury southerly to Estaire. This massive highway construction project was broken up into several phases, all of which were completed by 2009. The new four-lane divided highway was built on an entirely new alignment, which completely bypassed about 24 km of the old highway from Crown Ridge to Estaire. The new highway corridor will tie into the existing undivided four-lane highway near Crown Ridge, located about 4 km south of the Highway 17 Junction. Since 2005, work has also been underway to construct a new four-lane highway from Mill Lake Narrows to Highway 559, bypassing the small community of Nobel. This project was also been broken up into several phases, with the last phase being completed and opened to traffic between the Highway 124 Interchange and the Highway 559 Interchange on October 26, 2010. Construction began on a new section of four-lane Highway 69 from the Murdock River to Estaire in 2008, including the realignment and bypassing of a sharp reversing curve near the Highway 637 Junction. The twinned section of Highway 69 from Murdock River northerly to Estaire was completed in 2012. Twinning of the section of Highway 69 from just south of the Highway 64 Junction northerly to Murdock River began in 2012, with completion expected in 2015. The other sections of Highway 69 between Highway 559 and the vicinity of the Highway 64 Junction are still currently in the planning phases. Reconstruction of these remaining sections is not imminent, with all projects expected to begin after 2014. The Highway 400 designation will continue to replace the Highway 69 designation as the four-lane highway gradually advances north from Parry Sound.
Highway 69 traverses some very remote areas of Northeastern Ontario. The only towns of any significant size along the highway are Parry Sound, located just south of the highway's current south terminus, and Sudbury. Highway 69 is mostly a two-lane highway, but some new sections south of Sudbury were built as a fully controlled-access four-lane freeway. Currently, Highway 69 is a four-lane freeway for about 33 km from the Murdock River just south of the Highway 637 Interchange to Crown Ridge, just south of Sudbury. A short undivided four-lane highway section extends northerly from the freeway between Crown Ridge to the Highway 17 Interchange in Sudbury. Passing lanes appear frequently along the remaining two-lane sections of Highway 69 between Nobel and Murdock River. Services along Highway 69 are very scarce outside of major communities. Motorists who plan to use this highway at night should be aware that there are no 24-hour gas stations along Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury, a distance of over 150 km. The speed limit on Highway 69 is 90 km/h (55 mph) between the Highway 559 Interchange near Nobel and Murdock River, unless posted otherwise. The four-lane freeway sections of Highway 69 near Sudbury are posted at 100 km/h (60 mph). Moose are quite common along Highway 69. These enormous animals can often be seen crossing the highway corridor. This represents a serious collision hazard, because these animals are difficult for motorists to see at night. Slow down and be prepared for moose if you plan to use Highway 69 at night. Please visit the Highway 69 Mileage Chart page for a list of mileage reference points along Highway 69.
Winter Driving Tip: Highway 69 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 before using Highway 69.
Additional Information About King's Highway 69:
Learn More About King's Highway 69 (My Upcoming Publications)
King's Highway 69 - Route Information (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)
King's Highway 69 - A Virtual Tour (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)