401 The Busiest Highway in North America

Driving on the 401, the Busiest Highway in North America.

Highway 401 where it passes through Toronto is the busiest highway in North America in addition to being one of the top ten busiest and widest highways in the world. The present speed limit, on most sections of the highway is posted at 100 km/h or 62 mph, while six sections have recently increased the speed limit to 110 km/h (68 mph).

The highway was first constructed on a slightly different path beginning as a proposed drive in 1914. It would be a simple cement road named the Toronto-Hamilton Highway. This stretch of the road would run from Ontario, near the lake's shoreline instead of the north where Dundas Street was located, to Toronto. Toronto-Hamilton Highway finally opened in November 1917 and was the largest concrete roadway between two cities anywhere in the world.

Various sections of the highway were constructed at different intervals for the next several decades. The only large stretch of time in which no one was working on the highway's completion was when they took time off for the Korean War.

In January 1965, at a dinner marking the 150th birthday of Sir John A Macdonald, a designation was attached to the entire length of Highway 401. John Robarts wanted to honor two of the Father's of the Confederate of Canada. Know Highway 401 is also known as the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway.

For a while, people were calling Highway 401 'Killer Highway' because of all the deadly accidents along one particularly unassuming stretch of straight roadway. Many say that there is nothing for the drivers to look at, so they will drift off and cross the median, which was not very strong or wide, and cause head-on collisions.

One of the worst names Highway 401 has been saddled with is 'Carnage Alley' after one of the most terrible accidents ever recorded in Canada's history. On September 3, 1999, Canada experienced its most horrible multi-car highway accident. The weather report on the radio mistakenly mentioned clear skies however a thick blanket of fog rolled over an extended piece of Highway 401. All in all, 87 vehicles slammed into each other including semi-tractor-trailers and cars of all shapes and sizes. Eight people died from this massive accident and over 45 people were seriously injured.

The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario or MTO acted quickly after this historic deadly accident and installed shoulders with rumble strips and a taller, wider median for better protection of the drivers along this certain portion of Highway 401. In August 2007, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario took the stretch of Highway 401 between Don Valley Parkway and Highway 404 in Toronto and Glen Miller Road in Trenton and renamed it the Highway of Heroes in honor of the fallen servicemen and servicewomen, from the current wars, who are residents of Canada. Hundreds of people, mostly strangers to the soldiers and their families in the caravans on the highway, will line the overpasses with flags and signs of thanks.

Currently, the MTO is working on building an Ontario Tall Wall along the entire length of Highway 401 in addition to widening all two lanes to four lanes.