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History Infrastructure Ontario Roads

How the QEW made way for Ontario’s transportation innovation

IMG_1263.JPGQueen Elizabeth Way looking east towards Dixie Road in Mississauga

Eighty years ago, the Queen Elizabeth Way was officially dedicated by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (for whom it was named). The QEW, which connected Toronto with Hamilton and Niagara Falls, was not only Canada’s first superhighway, it was also the longest divided highway in North America. When it opened on June 7, 1939, it featured such innovations as continuous lighting, extensive landscaping, and Canada’s first cloverleaf interchange.

But the QEW was not built to modern freeway standards. Despite boasting interchanges and traffic circles, it also had many signalized intersections, private driveways, as well as two lift bridges. As traffic increased after the Second World War, the QEW became known as a notorious “death trap.” Luckily, safety innovations developed by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation and its predecessors have since made Ontario’s highways among the safest on the continent. Interestingly, the QEW is also indirectly responsible for the creation of one of North America’s most successful commuter rail systems.

I wrote more on the history of the QEW and Ontario’s record of highway safety innovation for TVO.