Highway History Exploring

Ontario Road Map  – Road map collector. Site by Neal.

The King’s Highway – The history of Ontario’s King’s highways. Site by Cameron Bevers.

Ontario Highways – Site by Christopher J. Bessert, Cartographer, GIS Specialist, Highway Historian.

The Ontario Highwayman – Site by Chris Beach.

The King’s Highway Ends Site – Old site by Earl Andrew Washburn.

Ontario Road and Highways – Yahoo group (active).

Asphalt Planet – Ontario, Quebec and US road history and photographs. Site by Scott Steeves.

Historic Roads – Dedicated to the identification, preservation and management of historic roads. Site by Paul Daniel Marriott & Associates. Washington, DC.

Historic Bridges – North American bridges.  (Ontario link). Site by Nathan Holth.

misc.transport.roads – Google Groups.

Have you found a lost road and photographed it?

They aren’t that tough to come across. Read local history to find where routes were changed. Not every road grew into a bigger road, some were bypassed and forgotten. Those are the old roads to look for, or to start with. As you find old roads you will soon find other old and forgotten roads. Bridges too.

What about dead ends, do they count as a lost road or not?

Meanwhile, the links above will get you started with your own research and exploring.


Information for Highway Explorers

I found some US highway history.  Likely the information will be similar for Ontario and Canadian highways and roads but… that will be another post. So far I found a lot of Canadian (and Ontario specific) resources but I haven’t done the research yet.

Prior to the Federal Interstate Highway system, the United States was criss-crossed by roads built by for profit groups. During the 1920s many of these roads could barely be called roads as they were more mud, dirt and ditches than road. But, as Henry Ford continued to churn out automobiles, more and more of these state highways popped up across the landscape. Most of these roads followed old trails or Transcontinental Trails like the Oregon and Santa Fe. One of the first transcontinental highways was the Lincoln Highway from New York to San Francisco. It was a rock road and privately financed; Henry Ford wanted nothing to do with it because he thought roads and highways should be funded by the government. As the 1920s progress other groups formed to build and promote their own highways. By 1925, there were over 250 named highways, each with their own colored signs, names, and random sign placement. Without government oversight, many of these roads were re-routed into cities so that the clubs and groups that built them could profit from them.

In the midst of this chaos, the Federal government got involved in 1924 and started numbering all of these roads. Odd numbers ran North to South with the numbers increasing from East to West, and Even numbers run East to West with the numbers increasing from North to South. So, U.S. Route 1 runs along the Eastern Seaboard while U.S. Route 10 runs along the Canadian border.

When the Interstate Highways came along, the government decided to use the mirror image of the numbering system to avoid any confusion. Interstate 10 runs through the southern states while I-5 is in California. Thankfully, the government was wise enough to help avoid the classic “How could you get us lost?” fight between drivers and map readers. Where the two systems, the routes and the Interstates, meet in the middle of the country it was decided that there would be no Interstate 50 to avoid confusion with U.S. Route 50 which runs from Sacramento, CA to Ocean City, MD. This is the same for Interstate 60.

via –  9 Things You May Not Know About the U.S. Interstate Highways | From The Kitchen Cabinet

When the Interstate Highway Act was passed, most Americans thought it was a good idea. But when construction started and people, especially in urban areas, were displaced and communities cut in half, some started to revolt. In the 1960s, activists stopped construction on highways in New York, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans, which resulted in several urban interstates becoming roads to nowhere.

The red, white, and blue shields used to designate interstate numbers are trademarked by the American Association of State Highway Officials. The original design for the shield was drawn by senior traffic engineer Richard Oliver of Texas and selected out of 100 entries in a national design competition in 1957.

A major concern during Eisenhower’s presidency was what the country would do in the event of a nuclear attack. One of the justifications for the building of the interstate system was its ability to evacuate citizens of major cities if necessary.

via – 10 Things You Might Not Know About the U.S. Interstate System | Mental Floss

The Toronto Expressway Plans

What could be found from the never built, demolished or cancelled road plans? I didn’t (so far) read why the roads were not built. For just the sake of transportation I think the Gardiner extension out to Scarborough would have been a great thing. A city the size of Toronto should have more than one main route from one end to the other. Now we have the 407, a toll road, but it does seem to be a faster way to get through the city when we have not planned to stop over anywhere in Toronto.

As an explorer I like the road history. I notice the details on bridges especially yet I haven’t found a good time to pull over on the highway and get a few photographs.

Roads change how a city is built too. Buildings are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings are built to make use of those new roads too. City planning seems basically about people moving to me. I’m sure there is more to it, like safety but in essence it seems to be about making the city work, transportation being a very big part of that. torontoexpressway

Source: Missing Links and the 1966 Plan

The people behind the Missing Links site (because I like to know):

James Alcock B.A. (Urban Planning)

James Alcock is an urban planner and an expert researcher, specialized in analysing with objectivity the macro trends of the GTA transportation needs from all angles, and then coming up with a set of recommendations taking into account our motorists’ safety and the most efficient use of our existing infrastructure and budgetary resources.

Born in the U.K., he moved to Canada with his family in 1969 and settled in Toronto, graduating from the University of Toronto in Urban Planning in 1983 ( Honours B.A.).

James’ professional links with energy and transportation are very broad, which enable him a wide scope of analysis and a special ability to link various factors into a realistic proposal. As a matter of fact, he has held responsibilities linked to the Canadian car industry and market (through work on General Motors’ brands positioning, and surveying the burgeoning development of electric cars for a major manufacturer). He also contributed to the extension of Ontario Hydro power lines across the province. He even evaluated the availability of transportation and community services to a large portfolio of commercial properties managed by Merrill Lynch Real Estate.

Most recently, he was a research and analysis specialist at the Canadian Automobile Association, where he performed research for five government affairs specialists to help determine motorist safety policies in conjunction with the Ontario Trucking association, involving media and political contacts, and liaising with officers of foreign sister institutions in the US, Australia, and the UK.

James’s major achievement, on the Community involvement front, was the co-authoring, on his own personal time from 1990 to 1999, of ‘Get Toronto Moving’, the first ever citizen-designed transportation plan for the City of Toronto, produced as a contribution to solve the City’s growing gridlock problem, emphasizing a balance of new roads and transit with neighbourhood preservation. This plan was championed by the C.A.A. and won him the position of planning advisor to the Executive Committee of the Scarborough Residents’ Association.

Bruce H. Bryer B.A., B.Ed.

Born in North Bay, Ontario and educated as a teacher, Bruce H. Bryer is a veteran of the Toronto transit system, being employed by the Toronto Transit Commission for 25 years. He has cared about improving Toronto’s public transit system and has made many suggestions for the upgrading of the efficiency and safety of the system. Some of his ideas include innovative suicide prevention barriers at subway stations. He has also analyzed transit systems all over the world and made notes of the best that they can offer for Toronto. He is a strong advocate of smart card technology to ease and integrate public transit fare systems.

Bruce is an advocate of balanced transportation, and he strongly supports completion of Toronto’s long-shelved Queen Street Subway in order to relieve downtown gridlock and to improve transit service to Toronto’s central business district. He is responsible for putting together the Public Transit section of the ‘Get Toronto Moving’ plan.

Bill P. Lansing

Bill P. Lansing, President of the Citizen’s Transportation Alliance, was born in the heart of downtown Toronto. A university student and former professional driver, he takes great pride in his home city, and intends to improve upon it even further. He has travelled extensively throughout North America, and has always maintained an interest in urban freeway systems and rapid transit.

Bill was instrumental in developing the freeway and rapid transit plans for “Vision 2030”, which is the long-term vision of ‘Get Toronto Moving’ as well as responsible for the creation of our corporate logo and byline. A firm supporter of economic and political growth and development, he is currently active in promoting the CTA mission and recruiting new members.

Kevin Walters, P.Eng.

Born in Toronto, Kevin is a civil engineer with many years experience with roads and traffic systems. He is a strong advocate of balanced transportation and has made detailed analyses of Toronto’s traffic problems. Travelling to Florida, he noticed the efficiency of the offshore bridge system, particularly in Tampa Bay. His idea was to adapt this system to Toronto. In 1990, he authored the proposal for the Gardiner Expressway Offshore Extension and the Humber Bayway. This was forwarded to Ontario Provincial officials and greeted with enthusiasm. He also put together proposals to eliminate the flooding problem in the lower Don River.

From 1996 to 2000, Kevin was pivotal in fighting the demolition of the eastern Gardiner Expressway from the Don Valley Parkway to Leslie Street, which in time was proven to bring more traffic into his nearby neighbourhood, as he had predicted.

Kevin also came up with the Scarborough Highlands Expressway proposal for the Gatineau Hydro Corridor and all of the arterial road missing links. He authored the roads section of the ‘Get Toronto Moving’ plan. He is currently employed with one of the largest engineering consulting firms in Canada.

The Late Eli Ophek

Eli lived in the North York area of Toronto and was married with three children. A member of the Toronto Bay Group, he was an advocate of revitalizing Toronto’s waterfront. He was involved in many studies on the future of the waterfront. Eli proposed the complete removal of the Toronto Island Airport and its conversion to parkland for the public to enjoy. He advocated the construction of a new waterfront airport further east off the Leslie Street spit. Eli was an outspoken opponent of demolition of the Gardiner Expressway and supported the Offshore Extension as proposed in ‘Get Toronto Moving’. He highlighted the importance of Toronto’s waterfront to the ‘Get Toronto Moving’ plan. Eli passed away in 1998 and is sadly missed by the other authors of this plan.

International Highway Sign Makeover

How would you design a traffic/ road sign? All the elements of sign design you never thought of, come into play when you really start planning a better road sign.

The idea isn’t new. I’ve saved screen captures from the Wayback Machine from the older site (below). Glad to see someone else has taken up the idea and kept it going on another site. I’m linking there first so people can see what’s new and contribute ideas of their own.

I used to send possible highway route signs to the owner of The Great International Highway makeover website, Mr. R. V. Droz, a while back. Well I found out recently that his email link at his website is inoperable. Rats. I hope it’ll work well in the future.

Source: International Highway Makeover 2

From the old site, by Robert V. Droz.

Highway route markers have gotten boring over time. In the 1940’s, there were many varied shapes and colors. Many governments opted for the MUTCD default (circles) or plain blank squares. The justification for those sparse designs is that they provide for increased number visibility and easy recognition. True enough, but nothing says you can’t design a useful sign that’s graphically attractive. Linked below are many examples of potential re-designs.











Toronto Secret Routes

Toronto Secret Routes

Their existence may be very well hidden, but the former Metropolitan Toronto did have a network of numbered Metropolitan Roads! The only place I have seen them referred to, is updates to the Toronto by-laws. They are most certainly not posted, although they may be hidden within serial/reference numbers on pieces of infrastructure (light standards, signal control boxes, etc.).

Toronto’s roads are referred to by the prefix “M.T.” — e.g., Yonge Street is “M.T. 29”. Like the Interstate system, all even numbers run east-west, and all odd numbers run north-south. Also similar to Interstates, numbers generally increase from west to east and from south to north, although there are many exceptions. Similar to Ontario’s 400-series highways, controlled-access M.T. roads start at M.T. 200; these numbers appear to also follow the even/odd E-W/N-S rule, although this theory would be better proved with the discovery of a number for Allen Road (formerly the Spadina Expressway).

(Update — December 2001! I have come across a map in a planning document which has provided insight into the numbering of Allen Road. Unfortunately the numbers are hardly readable due to over-photocopying and over-reduction, but the Allen Road number appears to be 21, which would tie it to Spadina Avenue — makes sense when you think about the original plans to tie the two roads together. Certainly it is a two-digit number, not a three-digit “controlled access” number.)

As I have yet to see an actual list of route numbers, the following lists may not include all number designations. It does, however, include all Metropolitan Roads referred to in the past four years of by-law amendments (1998-2001).

secretroads1 secretroads2 secretroads3

Source: Toronto Secret Routes

Note: The above content is copied (and screen capture) from a site which has been abandoned but is still findable with the Wayback Machine archives.  So far, I could not find the name of the original site owner.

Barrie in the Ontario Highway 11 Blog

The following is my comment on the post about Barrie, on the site about places along Highway 11 in Ontario.

I think your review of Barrie was good. I’ve been here about 10 years now. I grew up in Port Union, Ontario, before it became Scarborough, and after. Barrie is pretty suburban still. Downtown Barrie still has a lot of bars and drinking night life. The box malls and shopping in general didn’t get into downtown Barrie, just the outskirts. It helps keep traffic from being completely locked up during weekends when there are people out shopping and even more people navigating the cottage highway. There is a new mall going up not far from where I am. It will be right at the highway turn off for Duckworth, where the hospital and Georgian College are. The two lane bridge which ran under the highway is being done over. A big project but it has been needed for a long time. Living in Barrie I especially like being on the lake and actually seeing it. I grew up on Lake Ontario and I have missed having a big lake nearby – it was one of the reasons I picked Barrie. Last note, for anyone traveling to Barrie in the winter, it does get colder here as we are at least a couple of snow belts up from the weather in the GTA.

Source: Barrie | Ontario Highway 11 Blog

Nice idea for a blog/ site. If you are along the highway have a look at your town.

Culvert Installations from Saskatchewan

Source: Culvert Installations

About Culvert Installations

Welcome to this collection of culverts. It’s a work in progress. Saskatchewan’s total road surface is 160,000 km, enough road, according to The Government of Saskatchewan Highways and Infrastructure, to circle the equator four times. Under all these roads you’ll find culverts. All of these culverts have stories. These are my photos of Saskatchewan culverts, the basis of a book in progress. The writing is underway.

Brenda Schmidt is a writer and visual artist based in Creighton, a mining town on the Canadian Shield in northern Saskatchewan.

Ontario’s Vanishing Highways

This was a link included in a list of Ontario’s roads. All but this and one other of the history links were 404 (gone) on the Internet. I don’t have permission but I am saving the contents with the original link and credit to the source.

Ontario’s Vanishing Highways
Ontario’s provincial highways are becoming a kind of endangered species these days. In a largely successful effort to get the province’s budget under control, the Ontario government has been “downloading” various expenses onto counties and municipalities, one of which is Ontario’s highway system.

If you look at a map from the early 1990s, you’ll see lots of shield symbols, which represent a King’s Highway (a primary highway designation). Since around 1994, roads have been downloaded by removing the King’s Highway designation and renaming the roadway as a county road. In some cases, the numbered shield symbol has just been replaced with a county flowerpot symbol, and the number has stayed the same. In many other cases, the numbers change.

One casualty of this cost-cutting mechanism was King’s Highway 2, which was the main east-west trunk through southern Ontario before Highway 401 was completed decades ago. Highways 2 and 401 basically ran parallel, so despite the history of the road, it was cut up into strings of county roads with different numbers. Many other highways in Southern Ontario are meeting the same fate– if they haven’t disappeared altogether, they have become discontinuous, with stretches of county-designated roads (some with different numbers) in between the King’s Highway portions… somewhat confusing.

Having lived in southwestern Ontario, I drove or rode my bicycle down many of these highways, and even though they’re just name changes, I still get a little wistful. Highway 2 used to go from Detroit to (almost) Montreal. I lived blocks away from it London, and an old girlfriend lived a block away from it near Toronto. 22, 51, 73 and 81 are gone; 4, 15, 17 and 21 are being carved up, just to name a few.

I was at a farm auction once in 1995 and I saw a group of Ontario highway signs for sale. They looked brand new, but they were a configuration I’d never seen before, with number 3 on it. That made sense, since Highway 3 is nearby, but these were very different signs. I was a student at the time, and I wish to this day I could have afforded the $40 for one. According to my information, Highway 3 (which runs from Windsor to Fort Erie) remains largely intact.

The Ontario highways up in the northern half of the province are fewer in number and more spread out, and as far as I know, they aren’t going to be changing with the times, aside from stretches of road within town limits. Most of the King’s highways, secondary highways, and tertiary highways are staying the same. That’s good news to me… I grew up riding on secondary highways 552 and 556. But as for the King’s highways down south… It’s the end of the road.

Jon Upton : The Back Bumper

Source: TRAFFIC JAM: The Back Bumper – Ontario License Plates

Map Ornaments for the Christmas Tree

map ornaments

Found these ornaments made with maps.  Daisy Mae Design Shops

I enjoy maps. I don’t know why but I’ve liked maps since I was a kid and started seeing them in school. Physical maps showing the landscape are my favourite. They aren’t as practical as the political maps with cities and roads but they are prettier.

Old House Quote from Calpurnius

Sometimes you read something on another blog that you could have written yourself. It’s a good thing that the world has so many different people in it who can think or feel the same way.

“I have a nasty habit of traveling roads left to themselves. As I came around a curve, I saw this house on its hill. Empty. Abandoned. The windows as dark as soulless eyes. I stood there in the overgrown driveway for what seemed like a lifetime as I debated going further. Something compelled me to move; something compelled me to stay. In that I found myself trapped like the house.”

From Calpurnius.com

I read this a couple of days ago but have been traveling a lot this week and have not had time to catch up here. This week I have been as far north as Sturgeon Falls and North Bay and as far south as the heart of downtown Toronto. (Drove through the Exhibition grounds and under the CN Tower).