History of King's Highway 2A (Toronto):
King's Highway 2A was Ontario's first true controlled access highway and was the predecessor of today's Highway 401. Originally known as the Toronto-Oshawa Highway, this four-lane superhighway was designed to divert traffic off of a congested section of Highway 2 (Kingston Road) from West Hill in Scarborough Township to Oshawa. When the Toronto-Oshawa Highway was first proposed in the 1930s, highway planners decided to adopt the principle of the controlled access highway in their designs. The planners felt that traffic safety could be improved by limiting access to the new superhighway through the elimination of private driveways and minimizing the number of intersecting roads. These design principles would ensure that potential right-of-way conflict points along the route were kept to a minimum.
However, controlling access on provincial highways had been problematic in the past. Highway engineers in Ontario quickly learned that simply widening an existing two-lane road into a four-lane superhighway could create operational and safety problems. Ontario's other major superhighway, the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), was constructed along an existing township road known as the Middle Road. At the time of the superhighway's construction in the mid-1930s, there were many houses and buildings located along the Middle Road. Once the new superhighway was completed in 1937, the Ontario Department of Highways (DHO) was forced to allow adjacent property owners to use the superhighway to access their properties, since there were no provisions in any provincial legislation at the time to designate a road as a "controlled access highway". Thus, every adjacent property owner had a right to open an entrance on to any abutting roadway, even if the abutting roadway was a superhighway. These private entrances and driveways increased the number of potential conflict points and diminished the overall safety of the new divided highway. For decades after its construction, the Queen Elizabeth Way was not a true controlled access highway.
Determined to solve this problem, the DHO oversaw legislative changes to the Highway Improvement Act, which allowed them to designate any highway as a "controlled access highway". The controlled access highway designation gave the DHO the power to forbid private entrances along a new or existing highway. Even with this legislative change in place, the DHO knew that constructing a superhighway along an existing roadway corridor was not desirable, since any existing entrances would have to be closed. When the Toronto-Oshawa Highway was designed, the proposed route of the new superhighway followed an entirely new right-of-way where no road previously existed. This allowed DHO planners to carefully control the access points to the new superhighway.
By the 1930s, some sections of Highway 2 east of Toronto were becoming quite congested. The eastern approach to Toronto had always been a traffic bottleneck, since Highway 2 was the only practical through route. The deep Rouge River and Highland Creek valleys formed two very formidable physical obstacles to road builders. Beginning in 1936, a second roadway was added to Highway 2 (Kingston Road) from a point just west of the Highway 5 Junction, easterly to Highland Creek. This essentially converted this section of Highway 2 through Scarborough Township into a four-lane divided highway. In 1937, the DHO decided to extend this divided highway easterly to Oshawa by diverting Kingston Road traffic onto a new superhighway. The section from West Hill to Oshawa was constructed on an entirely new alignment, as opposed to the previous Highway 2 widening project, which simply involved the addition of another roadway alongside the existing one. Planning and surveying for the proposed Toronto-Oshawa Highway was started in 1937. The DHO utilized its new power to identify specific roads as controlled access highways and designated the entire length of the Toronto-Oshawa Highway as a controlled access highway.
The first construction contract for the Toronto-Oshawa Highway (Highway 2A) was called in late 1937. The first construction project involved the grading of the approaches to the Rouge Valley, and the twinning of the Highland Creek Bridge. This work commenced early in 1938, and within one year, grading was about 75% completed from Rosebank Side Road easterly to Ritson Road in Oshawa. Most of the culverts and smaller bridges were installed along the new superhighway in 1938 and 1939. One overpass was completed at Rosebank Side Road in 1939, and almost 13 other major overpasses and underpasses were commenced between the Rouge River and Ritson Road in Oshawa. Unfortunately, the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 severely hampered construction of the new superhighway. Supplies, equipment and labour were suddenly in short supply, slowing the progress on the construction of the Toronto-Oshawa Highway.
Heavy Wartime traffic demands on Highway 2 between Oshawa and Toronto prompted the DHO to continue tendering and awarding construction contracts on the Toronto-Oshawa Highway. Most of the overpasses were completed along the highway during Would War II. The bridges at Harwood Avenue, Henry Street, Brock Street, Cromwell Avenue (Park Road), Cubert Street, Simcoe Street, Albert Street, the CNR railway and Ritson Road were all commenced in 1939 and 1940. All of these structures were completed in 1941, except for the Henry Street overpass, which was essentially completed in 1940. The dual bridges over the Rouge River were also started in 1940. The south structure, carrying the future eastbound lanes of the superhighway, was completed in 1941, while the north structure carrying the westbound lanes was completed in 1942. With the grading work completed and the Rouge River Bridges open, the gravel-surfaced highway was unofficially opened to traffic from Highland Creek to Oshawa in 1942.
Some at-grade intersections existed along the highway, because shortages of structural steel prohibited the construction of any more overpasses. In 1943, construction was completed on the South Service Road through Whitby and Oshawa. This service road was constructed along the south side of the Toronto-Oshawa Highway to serve those properties that were severed by the new superhighway. This service road is known today as Victoria Street and Bloor Street in Whitby and Oshawa, respectively. Due to critical shortages of supplies and equipment, work was practically stopped on the Toronto-Oshawa Highway during 1944. At the conclusion of World War II in 1945, work quickly resumed on the new dual highway. The new divided highway was paved with a concrete surface during 1946 and 1947. Also, bridges were erected at Lawson Road (the Highland Creek underpass), Lansing Road (now known as Port Union Road), Liverpool Road and Thickson Road during this time. The completion of these final bridge construction contracts in 1947 effectively completed work on the Toronto-Oshawa Highway.
Before the highway's opening, a suggestion was made to name the new Toronto-Oshawa Highway as the Princess Elizabeth Way. This proposal was never adopted and the route was designated as Highway 2A instead. Presumably, the Princess Elizabeth Way name was not seriously considered for the new highway, because of the potential confusion that the road name might cause motorists, given that the unrelated "Queen Elizabeth Way" existed nearby.
On December 3, 1947, the Toronto-Oshawa Highway was officially opened to traffic, under the designation of Highway 2A. This 28.5 km section of new controlled-access freeway ran from Lawson Road at Highland Creek near West Hill to the Ritson Road Cloverleaf in Oshawa. The new four-lane freeway had dual roadways, which were separated by a wide grass median. The new freeway also boasted modern grade-separated cloverleaf interchanges at all major intersecting roads, and grade-separated crossings at minor roads. The route was actually not signed as Highway 2A at first. The highway was signed only with guide signs which read "Toronto" westbound and "Oshawa" eastbound.
During the late 1940s, plans were established to extend Highway 2A from Oshawa easterly towards Port Hope. In 1950, construction began on an extension of Highway 2A from the Ritson Road Cloverleaf in Oshawa to Newcastle. This new section of the freeway ran just south of Bowmanville and joined into Highway 2 at the present-day location of the Highway 2 and Highway 35 & Highway 115 Interchange west of Newcastle. This 23 km extension of Highway 2A was officially opened to traffic on November 19, 1952. For a very brief period of time, Highway 2A was nearly 52 km long. However, in December 1952, most sections of Highway 2A were re-designated as Highway 401. The Highway 401 designation was applied to the proposed Toronto Bypass and the remainder of former Highway 2A from the Port Union Road area easterly to Newcastle. Only one 3.4 km section of Highway 2A retained its designation, between the original western end of the highway at the Lawson Road Overpass and the proposed junction of the Toronto Bypass near Port Union Road.
For many years, the remaining section of Highway 2A from Lawson Road to the Highway 401 Interchange was an unposted route designation. The freeway stub was signed as "Highway 2 - Kingston Road" westbound and "Highway 401" eastbound. The short freeway stub from Lawson Road to Highway 401 was retained in the provincial highway system until March 31, 1997. On that day, Highway 2A was downloaded to the City of Toronto. A name for this short freeway has not yet been selected by the City of Toronto, so the freeway is still called Highway 2A for the time being. A different, unrelated Highway 2A existed in the Windsor area in the 1930s.
Highway 2A is a four-lane divided freeway for its entire length. The speed limit on Highway 2A is 80 km/h (50 mph), unless posted otherwise. Please visit the Highway 2A Mileage Chart page for a list of mileage reference points along Highway 2A.
Additional Information About King's Highway 2A (Toronto):