History of King's Highway 7:
King's Highway 7 is a major arterial highway which traverses the entire southern half of Ontario. The highway begins near London and extends easterly towards Ottawa. Until recently, Highway 7 continued from London to Sarnia, but this section of the highway was lost in the mass highway downloading of 1997-1998. The highway is one of Ontario's most important routes, particularly through Eastern Ontario where Highway 7 serves as the only major through route north of Highway 401. Motorists seeking a more scenic alternate route between Toronto and Ottawa can use Highway 7 instead of Highway 401 and Highway 416. Highway 7 is one of Ontario's longest provincial highways, with a total length of nearly 540 km. It is also part of the Central Ontario Route of the Trans Canada Highway between Ottawa and Sunderland.
Highway 7 was first designated in 1920 when the road from Sarnia to Guelph was designated as a provincial highway. During the 1920s, Highway 7 was extended from Guelph to Peterborough. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Highway 7 was extended from Peterborough to Perth as an unemployment relief project. The highway construction project employed thousands of unemployed men from regions of Central Ontario that were hard-hit by the sharp economic downturn. The highway was completed in 1932, providing a brand new east-west highway corridor across Central and Eastern Ontario. Until Highway 7 was completed, the only through route between Toronto and Eastern Ontario was Highway 2, via Kingston. In 1961, Highway 7 was extended from Perth into Ottawa, when a portion of Highway 15 from Perth to Ottawa was redesignated as Highway 7. Many towns and cities along Highway 7 were bypassed in the 1950s and 1960s. New Hamburg, Guelph, Brampton, Lindsay, Peterborough, Carleton Place, Stittsville and Madoc were all bypassed between 1957 and 1979. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Kitchener-Waterloo was bypassed by a new four-lane freeway known as the Conestoga Parkway. In the mid-1980s, a portion of Highway 7 through Richmond Hill from Centre Street to Bathurst Street was relocated and reconstructed as a limited-access expressway. This highway relocation project was necessary in order to construct Highway 407 in the 1990s. In 1995, Highway 7 was grade-separated at Bathurst Street, Yonge Street and Bayview Avenue, extending the limited-access expressway section of Highway 7 for several more kilometres.
In 1997-1998, significant portions of Highway 7 were "downloaded" or transferred to municipalities that were served by the highway. All portions of Highway 7 from Sarnia to the Highway 4 Junction at Elginfield north of London were decommissioned and turned over to Lambton County and Middlesex County. These portions of Highway 7 are now known as Lambton Road 22, Lambton Road 79, Lambton Road 6 and Middlesex Road 7. Between 1997 and 2007, additional sections of Highway 7 across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) were downloaded as well. A 63 km portion of Highway 7 from Norval to Donald Cousens Parkway (York Road 48) in Markham was turned over to the Regional Municipalities of Peel and York. The first section of Highway 7 to be transferred in the GTA ran from the Highway 410 (Queen Street) Interchange to the Highway 404 Interchange. This section of Highway 7 was relinquished on June 7, 1997, coinciding with the completion of adjacent Highway 407 (ETR). On April 1, 1998, Highway 7 was transferred between the Highway 404 Interchange and McCowan Road in Markham. The section of Highway 7 from McCowan Road to the Highway 48 Junction in Markham was downloaded on December 15, 1999. On November 28, 2001, the balance of Highway 7 within Peel Region was downloaded, between Norval and the Highway 410 (Bovaird Drive) Interchange. On March 7, 2007, the section of Highway 7 from the Highway 48 Junction in Markham to Donald Cousens Parkway (York Road 48) was downloaded. Peel Region redesignated their section of Highway 7 as Peel Road 107, while York Region named their section as York Road 7 (Highway 7). Despite the downloading, the entire section of Former Highway 7 across the GTA is still commonly referred to by the public as "Highway 7".
Highway downloading created another gap in Highway 7 near Peterborough. A short section of Highway 7 from Peterborough to Scott's Corners was downloaded. However, this problem was rectified in 2003, when Highway 7 was rerouted onto the Highway 115 Freeway. This reunited the two separated portions of Highway 7 lying to the east and west of Peterborough. As a result of the highway downloading, Highway 7 now lies in two pieces. The western leg from the Highway 4 Junction at Elginfield to Norval is 154 km long, while the eastern leg from Markham to Ottawa is 380 km long. These two sections of Highway 7 are now separated by a 63 km gap, with the road in between maintained and funded by municipal taxpayers of the GTA.
Growing traffic volumes on Highway 7 near Kitchener have prompted several new route planning studies for highway improvements. The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is beginning to examine route improvement opportunities between New Hamburg and Stratford, which may include diverting the highway onto an entirely new alignment to bypass Shakespeare. Planning for this section of Highway 7 & 8 has just commenced recently, so it is unlikely that any firm construction schedule will be forthcoming in the near future. However, construction has begun on the widening of the Conestoga Parkway (Highway 7 & 8) to six lanes between Courtland Avenue and Fischer-Hallman Road in Kitchener. Design work for the proposed Highway 7 Freeway between Kitchener and Guelph is nearing completion, with construction expected to begin within the next five years. The new freeway will be four lanes and will join into the Conestoga Parkway at an impressive four-level interchange at Wellington Street in Kitchener. At the eastern end, the Highway 7 Freeway will tie into the Hanlon Parkway at Woodlawn Road in Guelph. The new freeway will bypass the hopelessly congested section of Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph, which now has the dubious honour of being one of Ontario's busiest two-lane provincial highways.
Improvements are also scheduled for Highway 7 in the Pickering, Whitby and Lindsay areas. The existing two-lane section of Highway 7 through Pickering and Whitby from Brock Road to Highway 12 at Brooklin was widened to four lanes beginning in 2009, with completion expected by 2013. A section of the Lindsay Bypass from Highway 35 to Angeline Street was also reconstructed in preparation for widening in 2009-2010. A long section of Highway 7 between Ottawa and Carleton Place was recently "twinned", by adding a new two-lane roadway beside the existing two-lane roadway in order to create a divided highway. The widening of Highway 7 between Carleton Place and Ottawa began in 2006 and was completed in 2011. The new highway is a fully controlled-access freeway with no at-grade intersections or adjacent property access. The new freeway is so well designed in fact, that it would be worthy of receiving a 400-Series Highway designation. The first phase of the new Highway 7 Freeway was completed in 2008 between Jinkinson Road and Highway 417 in Ottawa. The next phase of reconstruction and widening from Jinkinson Road to Ashton Station Road began in late 2008 and was completed in 2010. The final phase of the Highway 7 Freeway from Ashton Station Road to Carleton Place began in 2009 and was completed in 2011.
Highway 7 traverses predominantly rural portions of Southern, Central and Eastern Ontario, although it does pass through several large cities and towns along its route. The principal towns located along the highway's current route are Stratford, Kitchener, Guelph, Georgetown, Markham, Lindsay, Peterborough, Madoc, Perth, Carleton Place and Ottawa. A 45 km section of Highway 7 is signed concurrently with Highway 8 between Kitchener and Stratford and a 4 km section of Highway 7 is signed concurrently with Highway 6 along the Hanlon Parkway in Guelph. A 40 km section of Highway 7 is signed concurrently with Highway 12 between Brooklin and Sunderland and a 13 km section is signed concurrently with Highway 115 in the Peterborough area. Most sections of Highway 7 are two lanes, but a 21 km section of the highway from Baden to Highway 85 in Kitchener is now a controlled-access freeway with 4 to 8 through lanes. The Hanlon Parkway is a limited access four-lane divided highway and the Peterborough Bypass is a four-lane divided freeway. The section of Highway 7 from Carleton Place to Highway 417 was recently widened into a four-lane divided highway. There are also many undivided four-lane sections of Highway 7 through towns and cities along the highway's 540 km route. Services along Highway 7 are generally quite plentiful, although services are much less frequent across Central Ontario between Peterborough and Perth. The speed limit on Highway 7 is 80 km/h (50 mph), unless posted otherwise. Freeway sections of Highway 7 have higher speed limits. The Highway 7 Freeway from Baden to Kitchener is posted at 90 km/h (55 mph), the Peterborough Bypass is posted at 100 km/h (60 mph), and the new Highway 7 Freeway from Carleton Place to Ottawa is posted at 100 km/h (60 mph).
Winter Driving Tip: The western section of Highway 7 is known for poor winter road conditions. The highway is sometimes closed during periods of poor winter weather between Stratford and London, 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 western portion of Highway 7.
Additional Information About King's Highway 7:
Learn More About King's Highway 7 (My Upcoming Publications)
King's Highway 7 - Route Information (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)
King's Highway 7 - A Virtual Tour (At Scott Steeves' website: asphaltplanet.ca)