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Queen Elizabeth Way
;">Route information
Maintained by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario
History: Built: 1931 – October 14, 1956
;">Major junctions
South end: Peace BridgeBuffalo, NY, USA

Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton
in Burlington
at the MississaugaOakville boundary
North end:
;">Highway system

The Queen Elizabeth Way, commonly abbreviated as the QEW, is a 400-Series highway in the Canadian province of Ontario linking Toronto with the Niagara Peninsula and Buffalo, New York. The freeway begins at the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie and travels 139.1 km (86.4 mi) around the western shore of Lake Ontario, ending at Highway 427. The physical highway, however, continues as the Gardiner Expressway into downtown Toronto. The QEW is one of Ontario's busiest highways, with close to 200,000 average vehicles per day on some sections. Major highway junctions are located at Highway 420 in Niagara Falls, Highway 405 and Highway 406 in St. Catharines, the Red Hill Valley Parkway in Hamilton, Highway 403 and Highway 407 in Burlington, Highway 403 at the OakvilleMississauga boundary and Highway 427 in Etobicoke. Within the Regional Municipality of Halton, the QEW is signed concurrently with Highway 403.

The history of the QEW dates back to 1931, when work began to widen the Middle Road in a similar fashion to the nearby Dundas Highway and Lakeshore Road as a relief project during the Great Depression. Following the 1934 provincial election, Ontario Minister of Highways Thomas McQuesten and his deputy minister Robert Melville Smith changed this design to be similar to the autobahns of Germany, dividing the opposite directions of travel and using grade-separated intersections known as interchanges at major crossroads. When it was initially opened to traffic in 1937, it was the first intercity divided highway in North America and featured the longest stretch of consistent illumination in the world. While not a true freeway at the time, it was gradually upgraded, widened and modernized throughout the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, more or less taking on its current form by 1975. Since then, various projects have continued to widen the route. In 1997, the provincial government turned over the responsibility for the section of the QEW east of Highway 427 to the City of Toronto. This section was subsequently renamed as part of the Gardiner Expressway.

Name and signage

The Queen Elizabeth Way was named for the wife of King George VI who would later become known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. In 1939, the royal couple toured Canada and the United States in part to bolster support for the United Kingdom in anticipation of war with Nazi Germany, and also to mark George VI's coronation. The highway received its name to commemorate the visit, and it was unveiled as the King and Queen drove across Henley Creek in St. Catharines on June 7. Originally, the entire length of the highway featured stylized light standards with the letters "ER", for Elizabeth Regina, the Latin equivalent to "Queen Elizabeth". While mostly removed, they remain in place on three bridges along the route of the highway: in Mississauga over the Credit River, in Oakville over Bronte Creek, and in St. Catharines over Twelve Mile Creek. A short section of Highway 420 and Falls Avenue in Niagara Falls also features these light standards.

The markers identifying the QEW have always used blue lettering on a yellow background instead of the black-on-white scheme used on other provincial highway markers. They originally showed the highway's full name only in small letters, with the large script letters "ER" placed where the highway number is on other signs. In 1955 the sign lettering was changed to "QEW". Trailblazer markers, indicating routes "to QEW," switch the colours to yellow on blue.

Because the highway curves sharply around the lakehead of Lake Ontario, its directions are not signed with cardinal directions, as is the case on all other Ontario highways. Instead, designated control cities are used to indicate the direction of travel. QEW Toronto is used consistently for the direction toward Toronto. In the other direction, the highway is signed QEW Hamilton from Toronto to Burlington, QEW Niagara from Burlington to Mountain Rd in Niagara Falls, QEW Fort Erie from Niagara Falls to Gilmore Rd in Fort Erie, and QEW Bridge to USA from Thompson Rd to Central Ave within Fort Erie.

The QEW is not publicly referred to by any route number, but the MTO has referred to it as both Highway 1 and Highway 451 in annual reports and other internal documents.[1]

A monument was originally located in the highway median at the Toronto terminus of the highway, dedicated to the 1939 visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and known as the Lucky Lion. Carved on-site under the direction of Frances Loring, it consisted of a column with a crown at the top and a lion at the base. The monument was moved in the mid 1970s in order to accommodate widening of the original QEW, and is now located in the nearby Sir Casimir Gzowski Park along Lake Ontario, on the east side of the Humber River.[2]

Route description

Many sections of the Queen Elizabeth Way have been reconstructed in recent years. Shown here is a rail overpass just west of Highway 405 in 2005 and 2009, respectively.

The QEW is a 139-kilometre (86 mi) route that travels from the Peace Bridge, connecting Fort Erie with Buffalo, New York, to Toronto, the economic hub of the province. The freeway circles the western lakehead of Lake Ontario, cutting through Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville and Mississauga en route.[3] A 22 km (14 mi) portion of the freeway is signed concurrently with Highway 403.[4]

Fort Erie – St. Catharines

The Queen Elizabeth Way begins at the foot of the Peace Bridge, which connects the freeway with I-190 in Buffalo New York. A customs booth is located between the bridge and the freeway, and provides access to nearby Highway 3 and the Niagara Parkway, as well as charging a toll to Canada-bound drivers. Through customs, the freeway proper begins, immediately curving northwest. Within the town of Fort Erie, interchanges provide access to and from the freeway at Central Avenue, Concession Road and Thompson Road, Gilmore Road and Bowen Road. While there is some urban development at the beginning of the freeway, the majority of the first 25 km (16 mi) are located within lowland forests. Numerous creeks flow through these forests, often flooding them. The Willoughby Marsh Conservation Area lies southwest of the freeway approximately 10 km (6.2 mi) south of Niagara Falls. After an interchange with Lyons Creek Road, the freeway curves northward.[3]

After crossing the Welland River, the original route of the Welland Canal, the freeway exits the forests and enter agricultural land surrounding the suburbs of Niagara Falls, which the highway enters north of the McLeod Road interchange. Within the city, Highway 420 meets the QEW at a large stack interchange, which replaced the former Lundy's Lane / Highway 20 interchange.

Exiting the northern fringe of the city, the freeway curves northwest and begins to descend through the Niagara Escarpment, a World Biosphere Reserve. Highway 405, also known as the General Brock Parkway, merges with the QEW along the short rural stretch between Niagara Falls and St. Catharines. While there is no Toronto-bound access, Niagara-bound drivers can follow Highway 405 to Lewiston, New York. The QEW continues west into St. Catharines.[3]

St. Catharines – Burlington

As the Queen Elizabeth Way enters St. Catharines, it ascends onto the Garden City Skyway to cross the Welland Canal. The 2.2 km (1.4 mi) structure replaced the lift bridge located south of it, one of two major bottlenecks prior to the late 1950s, and is one of two high-level skyways along the length of the route. As the QEW was the first long distance freeway in North America, several design restrictions were not considered and further expansion of the highway is inhibited by the proximity of properties throughout most of its length. Consequently, most of the route beyond the Welland Canal is sandwiched between service roads which provide access to and from the QEW as well as to local businesses and residences. After passing the Ontario Street (Regional Road 42) interchange, the freeway crosses Martindale Pond, which forms the mouth of Twelve Mile Creek. West of the crossing is an interchange with Highway 406, which travels south to Welland, after which the QEW crosses out of St. Catharines and into the town of Lincoln at Fifteen Mile Creek.[5]

Throughout Lincoln, the QEW travels along the Lake Ontario shoreline through the Niagara Fruit Belt. Numerous wineries line the south side of the freeway. Interchanges at Victoria Road (Regional Road 24) and Ontario Street (Regional Road 18) provide access to the communities of Vineland and Beamsville, respectively. The latter encroaches upon the south side of the QEW, interrupting the otherwise agricultural surroundings of the highway in Lincoln. Immediately east of the Bartlett Avenue interchange, the freeway enters Grimsby, where it becomes sandwiched between the Niagara Escarpment and Lake Ontario. The route passes under three historic overpasses: Maple Avenue, Ontario Street and Christie Street, all served by a single diamond interchange. South of the 50 Point Conservation Area, the freeway exits Niagara Region and enters the city of Hamilton.[6]

Within Hamilton, the highway passes almost entirely within an industrial park, with interchanges at 50 Road, Fruitland Road and Centennial Parkway (formerly Highway 20). The latter is intertwined with the Red Hill Valley Parkway interchange, completed in 2006. From here, the freeway curves northwest onto Burlington Beach and begins to ascend the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway Bridge, the second high-level bridge along the route. As it crosses over the entrance to Hamilton Harbour, the freeway enters the Regional Municipality of Halton and descends into the city of Burlington.[5]

Beach Boulevard


After descending into Burlington, the QEW crosses former Highway 2 then encounters the Freeman Interchange, opened in 1958 to allow construction of Highway 403 and expanded in 1999 to accommodate Highway 407. The freeway curves to the east, becoming concurrent with Highway 403 through Burlington and Oakville. The two routes travel east, straight-as-an-arrow though a commercial office area. Service roads reappear through this stretch to serve businesses fronting the highway. The segment between and includes high-occupancy vehicle lanes, opened in 2011, which required the construction of a second structure over Sixteen Mile Creek. In the eastern end of Oakville, the route curves northeast, passing the Ford Motor Assembly Plant. Highway 403 diverges and travels north as the QEW curves back to the east and enters Mississauga and Peel Region.

Within Mississauga, the freeway encounters its narrowest right-of-way, sandwiched between residential subdivisions on either side that prevent further expansion of the busy route. It crosses the Credit River Valley, where a second structure is currently under construction. The segment east of the Credit River is being examined for expansion possibilities, but like the previous section there is little room for more lanes without property acquisition. After crossing Etobicoke Creek, which forms the boundary between Mississagua / Peel Region and Toronto. The QEW formerly continued beyond Highway 427 to the old Toronto city limits at the Humber River; this section was downloaded from provincial to municipal ownership on April 1, 1997, and became part of the Gardiner Expressway.


The Middle Road

As automobile use in southern Ontario grew in the early 20th century, road design and construction advanced significantly. A major issue faced by planners was the improvement of the routes connecting Toronto and Hamilton, which were consistently overburdened by the growing traffic levels.[7] Following frequent erosion of the former macadamized Lake Shore Road,[8] a cement road known as the Toronto–Hamilton Highway was proposed in January 1914.[9] The highway was designed to run along the lake shore, instead of Dundas Street to the north, because the numerous hills encountered along Dundas would have increased costs without improving accessibility. Middle Road, a dirt lane named because of its position between the two, was not considered since Lake Shore and Dundas were both overcrowded and in need of serious repairs.[10] Construction began on November 8, 1914, but dragged on throughout the ongoing war.[7] It was formally opened on November 24, 1917,[8] 5.5 m (18 ft) wide and nearly 64 km (40 mi) long. It was the first concrete road in Ontario, as well as one of the longest stretches of concrete road between two cities in the world.[11]

Over the next decade, vehicle usage increased substantially, and by 1920 Lakeshore Road was again highly congested on weekends.[12] In response, the Department of Highways examined improving another road between Toronto and Hamilton. The road was to be more than twice the width of Lakeshore Road at 12 m (39 ft) and would carry two lanes of traffic in either direction.[13] Construction on what was then known as the Queen Street Extension west of Toronto began in early 1931.[14]

Before the highway could be completed, Thomas McQuesten was appointed the new minister of the Department of Highways, with Robert Melville Smith as deputy minister, following the 1934 provincial elections.[15] Smith, inspired by the German Autobahn's—new "dual-lane divided highways"—modified the design for Ontario roads,[16] and McQuesten ordered that the Middle Road be converted into this new form of highway.[17][18][19] A 40 m (130 ft) right-of-way was purchased along the Middle Road and construction began to convert the existing sections to a divided highway. Work also began on Canada's first interchange at Highway 10.[13]

The New Niagara Falls Highway

McQuesten also foresaw the financial opportunities that came with cross-border tourism and opening the "Ontario frontier" to Americans. In 1937, construction began on a new dual highway along the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment. This route was originally known as the New Niagara Falls Highway, but it was intended to connect with the Middle Road on the opposing shore of Lake Ontario.[20] Work began at the end of March to grade the route between Stoney Creek and Jordan.[21]

The prospect of removing hundreds of acres of farmland did not sit well with many, especially farmers in the path of the new highway. Rumours spread that the prices paid for land were to be well below market value, and local protests erupted throughout the summer. However, the purpose of the new highway was to replace the congested, winding and hilly route of Highway 8 along the escarpment; several groups of collisions that summer gradually persuaded the public in support of the new highway. By the autumn, 340 acres (140 ha) of fruitland were cleared to make way for the route.[22]

Over the next two years, the numerous bridges and cloverleafs along the new highway were constructed. In addition, a large traffic circle was built in Stoney Creek to connect with Highway 20. The majority of this structural work was completed before the royal visit in 1939. However, despite being opened to traffic between Stoney Creek and Jordan, the majority of the new highway was gravelled. Over a ten week period in the late spring and early summer of 1940, 58 km (36 mi) of the route was paved, completing the paved highway between Hamilton and Niagara Falls. On August 23, 1940, McQuesten cut a ribbon at the Henley Bridge in St. Catharines and officially declared the Queen Elizabeth Way open between Toronto and Niagara Falls.[23] Construction towards Fort Erie continued, but the ongoing war would delay its completion for some time. As an interim measure, the unpaved highway was opened during the summer of 1941. Two lanes of pavement were laid in 1946, but the four lane highway was not fully paved until 1956. The completed highway was officially opened on October 14 of that year, completing the envisioned highway 25 years after work had begun.[24]

Conversion to freeway

One of the first sections of the QEW to be upgraded to a freeway was the section from Highway 10 (Hurontario Street) to Dixie Road in what is now Mississauga in early 1956. Service roads were installed and 13 intersections eliminated, and the accident rate was reduced by 50%. The Cawthra interchange was closed on May 1, 1956.[25]

In 1958, the original section of the QEW west of Guelph Line was relocated on a new alignment known as the Freeman Diversion which improved access to the proposed Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway and allowed the Freeman Interchange (a "semi-directional T" interchange) to be constructed with the future Highway 403. The old bypassed segment was renamed Plains Road (which was never a freeway and is now a minor arterial road) and the new QEW branched off from it in a Y-junction partial interchange.

High-level bridges were constructed in 1958 (the Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway over Hamilton Harbour in Burlington) and 1963 (the Garden City Skyway over the Welland Canal in St. Catharines) to allow free movement of traffic without the need to stop for drawbridges. Tolls on these bridges were eventually removed in 1973. Ramp meters were also added to traffic entering the Toronto-bound lanes from Ford Drive to Cawthra Road in 1975. These meters are only activated during the morning rush hour.

In 1971, two traffic circles in Niagara Falls were removed, where the Queen-E Extension (now Highway 420) met the QEW proper. Motorists at the time, travelling from the QEW proper to the Rainbow Bridge along the Queen-E Extension, would leave one traffic circle and immediately drive through another circle, where the Extension crossed Dorchester Road and the Queenston-Chippawa Hydro Canal. In 1975, another traffic circle on the QEW, with Highway 20 (Centennial Parkway) in Stoney Creek, was removed in favour of a conventional parclo interchange.

To meet growing demand, the Burlington Skyway was twinned in 1985. Concurrently, the QEW from Burlington Street to the Humber River was reconstructed with eight lanes, a variable lighting system, changeable message signs and traffic cameras, and modern parclo interchanges with Burlington Street, Northshore Boulevard, and Fairview Street.

In the early-to-late 1990s, the Freeman Interchange was reconfigured to accommodate Highway 407, and an interchange was added at Brant Street. In 2000–2001, QEW was widened to six lanes from Brant Street to Guelph Line and access to Plains Road was removed. In 2004-2005, the Guelph Line interchange was converted to a standard Parclo A4 configuration.

The section from Highway 427 to the Humber River was downloaded by the province to Toronto in 1997, and was renamed as part of the Gardiner Expressway, so that the QEW now ends at Highway 427. The section has changed little since then. Since the end of 2003, the conventional truss lighting poles from the late 1960s have been replaced west of Kipling Avenue and east of Royal York Road, in favour of shaded high-mast lighting like that of the Don Valley Parkway. Bilingual English-French signs were also removed and replaced with English-only signs.

In 2000, the grade-separated traffic circle junction with Erin Mills Parkway and Southdown Road, which dated back to the early 1960s, was completely reconstructed as a standard parclo A4 interchange. The nearby Hurontario Street interchange upgrade from a cloverleaf to a parclo A4 on the south side and a diamond on the north side was completed in the fall of 2010.

Recent work

As part of the Red Hill Valley Parkway newly opened in 2007, the Burlington Street and Centennial Parkway interchanges were reconstructed, including the construction of collector lanes on the south (Niagara-bound) side of the highway. Construction was completed in 2009.

The highway was recently widened to permit an additional HOV lane in either direction between Guelph Line and Trafalgar Road. These lanes were opened to traffic on November 29, 2010.[26]

Starting May 9, 2007, work had begun to widen the QEW through St. Catharines from 1.1 kilometres west of Seventh Street to Bunting Road for 9.4 kilometres. This included: demolishing 4 bridges: Lake Street, Martindale Road, Geneva Street, Welland Avenue, rehabilitating 2 bridges: Ontario Street and Niagara Street, widening the Third Street bridges, ramp modifications at Lake St, Ontario St and Niagara St, decorative landscaping at Martindale Road, widening Martindale from two to four lanes, widening Lake Street from 4 to 5 lanes, installing high mast lighting, replacing traffic lights, installing 2 Retained Soil Slopes (RSS), improving the Highway 406 interchange, constructing noise barriers to reduce noise for residents, 1,370 metres of retaining walls, culvert extensions at Richardson and Grapeview creeks, expanding the MTO (Ministry of Transportation) system, and upgrading full illumination through the highway. On June 30, 2011, the work on the highway was done, however, there was still some work to be done on traffic signals and landscaping. By August 17, 2011, the widening project was fully completed. The total cost was $186 million, the largest project ever awarded by the Ministry of Transportation.

The MTO resurfaced the highway from Victoria Avenue in Vineland to Casablanca Boulevard in Grimsby from July 2011 to November 2012. The Niagara-bound lanes were completed first and then the Toronto-bound lanes were then redone after that project.

Work is underway to rehabilitate 6 bridges in Hamilton which are: Fifty Road, Grays Road, Millen Road, Glover Road, Fruitland Road and Winona Road. The project was scheduled to be completed by November 30, 2012. However, other problems pushed it back to 2014.

There is also work going on from Seventh Street to Victoria Avenue which involves resurfacing. It started in June 2013.

Exit list

The following table lists the exits along the QEW. Exits are numbered from Fort Erie to Toronto.

Division Location km[4] Exit Destinations Notes
Peace Bridge over the Niagara River
Niagara Fort Erie 0.2 International customs plaza; no exit number; no access from Central Avenue to Peace Bridge. Toll rates
1.1 1 Toronto-bound exit and Fort Erie -bound entrance
2.1 2 to Toronto-bound exit and Fort Erie -bound entrance

Fort Erie -bound exit and Toronto-bound entrance
4.6 5
6.7 7
12.2 12
Niagara Falls
15.5 16
22.1 21
26.6 27
29.5 30 (to Niagara Falls, U.S.A.)
31.5 32
34.0 34
Niagara-on-the-Lake 36.5 37 (to Lewiston, U.S.A.) Niagara-bound exit and Toronto-bound entrance
37.8 38
Garden City Skyway over the Welland Canal
St. Catharines
43.9 44 / Service Road
45.6 46
46.9 47
47.7 48 Toronto-bound exit and Niagara-bound entrance
48.4 49
50.4 51
Lincoln 54.7 55
57.6 57
64.3 64
Grimsby 68.1 68
70.6 71 / Maple Avenue / Ontario Street
74.2 74
Hamilton 77.8 78
82.9 83
88.1 88
South Service Road
Formerly Highway 20
89 Red Hill Valley Parkway
89.8 89 Burlington Street
90 Woodward Avenue Niagara-bound exit and Toronto-bound entrance
93.8 93 Eastport Drive (Highway 7189) Toronto-bound exit and Niagara-bound entrance
Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway over Burlington Bay
Halton Burlington
97.1 97 North Shore Boulevard, Eastport Drive Formerly Highway 2
99.5 99 Plains Road, Fairview Street Toronto-bound exit and Niagara-bound entrance
100.5 100 Toronto-bound exit and Niagara-bound entrance
, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport Beginning of Highway 403 concurrency
101.3 101 Toronto-bound entrance
103.2 102
105.2 105 Walkers Line
107.3 107
109.3 109
110.9 110 Service Road Access removed in 2008 to accommodate widening of the QEW for HOV Lanes
111.3 111
113.4 113 3rd Line
116.5 116
Kerr Street Hamilton-bound exit only
118.6 118
120.0 119 Royal Windsor Drive Toronto-bound exit and Hamilton-bound entrance; formerly Highway 122
123.1 123
End of Highway 403 concurrency; Toronto-bound exit and Hamilton-bound entrance
124.5 124
Peel Mississauga
126.6 126
Southdown Road
Southdown Road formerly Highway 122
130.7 130 Mississauga Road
132.7 132 Hurontario Street Formerly Highway 10.
134.9 134
136.7 136 Hamilton-bound exit and Toronto-bound entrance
Toronto 138.5 138 Evans Avenue, West Mall, Brown's Line Toronto-bound exit and Hamilton-bound entrance
139.1 139 Pearson Airport
continues east into downtown Toronto as the Gardiner Expressway 
Toronto 140.5 140 Kipling Ave Redesignated as an extension of the Gardiner Expressway April 1, 1997
141.9 141 Islington Ave
143.1 143 Park Lawn Rd
145.3 145

See also



External links

  • Live QEW Traffic Cameras through Hamilton, Halton Region and Peel Region
  • Live QEW Traffic Cameras through St. Catharines and Niagara Falls
  • Google Maps: QEW route
  • Video of the QEW eastbound in Greater Toronto
  • Queen Elizabeth Way @
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