History of King's Highway 86:
King's Highway 86 was once a major collector highway which traversed Southwestern Ontario. Until the majority of the highway was downloaded to municipalities in the late 1990s, Highway 86 ran from the Highway 7 Junction in Kitchener-Waterloo to the Highway 21 Junction in Amberley, located on the shores of Lake Huron. The highway provided access to several large towns and cities, including Kitchener, Waterloo, Elmira, Listowel and Wingham.
The history of Highway 86 dates back to 1937, when a new provincial highway was designated between Elmira and Amberley. Preliminary Route Plans were prepared by the Department of Highways of Ontario (DHO) in June 1937, showing the proposed route of the new provincial highway through Waterloo, Wellington, Perth, Huron and Bruce Counties. The new highway was 108 km (67 miles) in length, and was first assumed by the DHO as King's Highway 86 on August 25, 1937. Almost immediately thereafter, plans were drawn up to extend Highway 86 from Elmira to Guelph. A Preliminary Route Plan was prepared dated October 12, 1937, showing the proposed extension of Highway 86 through Waterloo County. A second Preliminary Route Plan, dated October 13, 1937, showed the remainder of the proposed extension of Highway 86 through Wellington County. The DHO assumed the Elmira-Guelph Road as a new portion of Highway 86 on April 13, 1938. The extension between Elmira and Guelph added another 19 km (12 miles) to the length of Highway 86 (See Map).
When Highway 86 was first established in the 1930s, the entire highway was gravel-surfaced with the exception of a short paved section was immediately west of Elmira. Paving work on Highway 86 progressed very slowly. In 1946, Highway 86 was paved between Wingham and Bluevale. In 1951, the section of Highway 86 between Lucknow and Amberley was paved, as well as the section between Listowel and Tralee. The section of Highway 86 between Listowel and Molesworth was paved in 1952. In 1953, paving work was completed between Tralee and Dorking. Highway 86 was paved between Lucknow and Wingham in 1955. In 1957, paving was completed between a point just east of Bluevale and Molesworth. The balance of the highway between Amberley and West Montrose was paved under various minor surfacing contracts between 1957 and 1960. The final gravel section of Highway 86 between West Montrose and Guelph was finally paved in 1967. Until that paving contract was completed, the section of Highway 86 from West Montrose to Guelph was the last loose-surfaced provincial highway remaining in Southwestern Ontario.
Three major revisions were made to the original route of Highway 86 between Amberley and Elmira. In 1958, a new bridge was constructed over the Grand River as part of a new Highway 86 Bypass around the community of West Montrose. Upon completion of the West Montrose Bypass, a 3 km section of former Highway 86 through West Montrose was re-designated as Highway 86B. The new Grand River Bridge also bypassed the historic covered bridge at West Montrose. Built in 1881, the narrow wooden West Montrose Covered Bridge could no longer support the demands of increased truck traffic on Highway 86. The West Montrose Covered Bridge still stands today on a quiet rural side road (which was the original Highway 86). It is the last remaining covered bridge in Ontario. A portion of Highway 86 was relocated east of Bluevale in the late 1950s in an effort to improve the highway's alignment on the eastern approach to the Highway 87 Junction in Bluevale. In December 1967, the Wingham Bypass was completed to the south of Wingham. The old Highway 86 alignment through Downtown Wingham was re-designated as Highway 86B.
As originally assumed in 1937 and 1938, the DHO owned Highway 86 in its entirety with the exception of the portions of the route passing through Wingham, Listowel and Elmira. These non-assumed sections of the route remained under municipal jurisdiction. The non-assumed section of Highway 86 through Wingham was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective July 24, 1958. An assumed section of Highway 86 through Lucknow was transferred to the Village of Lucknow, and subsequently designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council effective July 30, 1959. The non-assumed section of Highway 86 through Elmira was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective January 8, 1959. The non-assumed section of Highway 86 through Listowel was designated as a Municipal Connecting Link by an Order-in-Council, effective September 3, 1959. About 1 km of the route of Highway 86 through Listowel was signed concurrently with Highway 23 via Main Street.
As a result of improvements to the Highway 85 Corridor in the Kitchener-Waterloo area during the 1960s and early 1970s, it was determined that the section of Highway 86 lying east of Elmira performed more of a local function rather than a provincial one. In the late 1970s, the eastern section of Highway 86 from Elmira to Guelph was transferred to Wellington County and the newly-formed Regional Municipality of Waterloo. The 19 km section of Highway 86 between the Highway 85 Junction in Elmira and the Highway 7 Junction in Guelph was transferred by the province in two sections to affected municipalities. The section of Former Highway 86 within the Regional Municipality of Waterloo was transferred by the province on October 7, 1975, while the section of Former Highway 86 lying within Wellington County was transferred on January 7, 1977. This decommissioned section of Highway 86 is now known as Waterloo Regional Road 86 and Wellington County Road 86 (See Map).
In 1980, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MTC) assumed jurisdiction of Waterloo Regional Road 20 in order to create a new bypass around the southwestern side of Elmira. The new Elmira Bypass linked Highway 86 west of Elmira directly to Highway 85 south of Elmira. The new Elmira Bypass shortened the highway distance between Waterloo and Listowel by approximately 3 km. An Assumption Plan was prepared by the MTC dated April 2, 1980, indicating the MTC's intentions to assume existing Waterloo Regional Road 20 between Highway 86 and Highway 85 as a new King's Highway. The Elmira Bypass was formally designated as King's Highway 86 by an Order-in-Council, effective April 29, 1980. The old route of Highway 86 lying between the western terminus of the Elmira Bypass and Elmira was transferred to the Regional Municipality of Waterloo on April 1, 1980. For a brief period of time, Highway 85 and Highway 86 shared a common terminus at the eastern end of the Elmira Bypass. However, in 1981, a route renumbering took place which saw Highway 86 absorb the entire 17 km route of Highway 85 between Kitchener and Elmira. Following the 1981 renumbering, Highway 86 ended at the Highway 7 (Victoria Street) Interchange in Kitchener. The renumbering brought the total length of Highway 86 up to 124 km (See Map).
On January 1, 1998, all portions of Highway 86 lying outside of Kitchener-Waterloo were downloaded, shortening the length of Highway 86 down to only 9.8 km. The old route of Highway 86 lying immediately north of Waterloo was renamed Waterloo Regional Road 85. The balance of Former Highway 86 from Elmira westerly to Amberley was renamed Waterloo Regional Road 86, Wellington County Road 86, Perth Line 86, Huron County Road 86 and Bruce County Road 86. In order to improve the consistency of the route number between Kitchener and Elmira, the Ministry of Transportation decided to renumber Highway 86 as Highway 85 in 2003. On September 9, 2003, the final 9.8 km section of Highway 86 was renumbered as Highway 85, effectively erasing Highway 86 from existence.
Highway 86 passes through a predominantly rural area along its 124 km pre-1998 route. The only major towns located along the highway are Kitchener-Waterloo, Elmira, Listowel and Wingham. Highway 86 is mostly a two-lane road. The only notable exception is the freeway section within Kitchener-Waterloo (now Highway 85), which has at least four lanes (two lanes per direction), with one short section having eight lanes. Services along Highway 86 are available in most communities. The speed limit on Highway 86 is generally 80 km/h (50 mph), unless posted otherwise. The freeway section through Waterloo is posted at 90 km/h (55 mph), as is a section of Highway 86 that passes through Huron County. Please visit the Highway 86 Mileage Chart page for a list of mileage reference points along Highway 86.
Additional Information About King's Highway 86: