Ontario dreams big for Highway 401 upgrades

April 22, 2022

Chuck Robinson


Ontario’s Highway 401 is in line for some major improvements, according to a new draft transportation plan released by the provincial Ministry of Transportation.

A report titled “Connecting the East: a Draft Transportation Plan for Eastern Ontario” has just been released. It lists 55 near- and long-term actions, including highway expansions and public transit improvements that are intended to address gridlock and support economic growth.

The plan includes long-term planning work to widen Highway 401 to up to eight lanes in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville. It also specifically mentions support for the trucking sector by adding truck stops along Highway 401. Also mentioned is its intention to design bridges, interchanges and highways to accommodate tractors hauling longer tandem trailers.

Besides the 401, it also includes the expansion of Highway 417 to four continuous lanes in each direction between Highway 416 and Maitland Avenue in Ottawa.

A PDF of the 35-page plan is available.

The wide-ranging plan covers not just highways but also bicycling routes, bus transit, air travel, ports, passenger and freight rail. It is the last of four regional transportation plans.

The eastern Ontario plan is the last of four provincial transportation plans. In January 2020, “Connecting the Southwest: a Draft Transportation Plan for Southwestern Ontario” was released, followed by “Connecting the North: a draft transportation plan for Northern Ontario” in December 2020. “Connecting the GGH: A Transportation Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe” was released in March

Eastern Ontario has 1.8 million people, the ministry notes in the plan. That is expected to grow to 2.4 million by 2051. The region has an extensive transportation network with multiple 400-series highways, which are controlled-access routes and are analogous to in U.S. interstate highway system. The 401 is the most important of Ontario’s 400-series highways, the report states.

Among the 55 actions listed in the Eastern Ontario report is planning to rehabilitate or replace 19 highway structures in United Counties of Leeds and Grenville and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry to accommodate adding lanes on Highway 401.

Prepare for more ‘long combination vehicles’

The transportation plan also lists ensuring that highway interchanges are designed to accommodate “long combination vehicles.”

“Since each LCV replaces two conventional tractor-trailers, they reduce shipping costs and cut overall fuel use and emissions,” according to the report. “They also have a better safety record than single-trailer trucks.”

Ontario supports the use of long combination vehicles, which typically are up to 40 meters (131 feet). An LCV driver’s certificate is required to operate one. There also are special equipment requirements, including speed recording devices, enhanced braking and stability control systems, and additional lighting and signs

On a webpage dedicated to them, the province explains, “They are longer than typical tractor-trailers and can help save carriers time and money while improving road safety and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.”

Truck parking

Continuing to expand truck parking along provincial highways also was listed as a transportation plan action. The government is improving four rest areas in eastern Ontario, the Ministry of Transportation notes in the report:

  • Converting a former vehicle inspection facility in Gananoque to a truck rest area on Highway 401 with 29 spaces (completed July 30, 2021).
  • Increasing truck parking at the ONroute in Bainsville on the 401.
  • Increasing truck parking at the Trenton South ONroute on the 401.
  • Increasing truck parking at the existing rest area at Gibson Lake on Highway 17. LL

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