Ontario Highway 404
Thursday May 15th, 2014
King's Highway 404 (pronounced "four-oh-four"), also known as Highway 404 and colloquially as the 404, is a400-series highway in the Canadian province of Ontario connecting Highway 401 and the Don Valley Parkway (DVP) in Toronto with Newmarket. The controlled-access highway also connects with Highway 407 in Markham.
Construction on the freeway began soon after the completion of the Don Valley Parkway, with the first section south of Steeles Avenue opening in 1977. Over the next twelve years, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) undertook a continuous construction program to build the freeway to Davis Drive in Newmarket. This was completed on October 24, 1989. Since then, the route has been expanded in width and extended by 2 km (1.2 mi) to Green Lane, an east-west road in the town of East Gwillimbury. A northward extension to Ravenshoe Road near Keswickis currently under construction, with completion tentatively scheduled for 2014. This 13.5 km (8.4 mi) route is the first part of a proposed extension to southeast of Beaverton.
Highway 404 is one of several freeways in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) with High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes; the southbound lane was one of the initial projects in the province and opened on December 13, 2005. The northbound lane opened on July 23, 2007.
Highway 404 Route Description
Running parallel to Highway 400 approximately 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) to the east, Highway 404 extends 36 km (22 mi) on a north–south orientation between Highway 401 and Green Lane. There are 14 interchanges along its length, mostly of the Parclo A4 configuration. Exit numbers on the freeway start at 17, suggesting that the length of the Don Valley Parkway was considered in distance calculations; there are no exit numbers posted on the parkway.
Officially, the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) jurisdiction over the freeway begins as the opposing directions of travel diverge south of the Highway 401 interchange.[note 1] Northbound, two lanes from the DVP are joined by a third from the eastbound collectors of Highway 401. These narrow to two lanes before merging with a single lane from westbound Highway 401 immediately south of Sheppard Avenue. An additional two lanes from westbound Highway 401 converge and form a separate carriageway with no access to Sheppard. Southbound, the freeway is divided into two carriageways, both of which provide access to the DVP. The outer carriageway also provides access from Sheppard and to Highway 401, including the westbound express lanes, while the inner carriageway is intended for DVP-bound traffic. The HOV lane also provides access to westbound Highway 401 via a dedicated tunnel, which passes beneath the other southbound lanes. To the east of Highway 404 is the Consumers Road office park. To the west and north of Sheppard Avenue is Fairview Mall, which has its own connection with the southbound lanes.
The highway continues directly north along the old Woodbine Avenue right-of-way to just south of Steeles Avenue, where it diverges to the west before continuing north. From just north of Sheppard, a northbound HOV lane is present alongside the central median. Southbound, the HOV lane continues as far as Highway 401. Alongside the 404 to the east is an industrial warehouse and commercial office area, while on the west is a suburban subdivision of North York. Northbound, the freeway is six lanes wide from Sheppard Avenue to Finch Avenue, where one diverges onto an off-ramp, re-emerging north of Finch. Southbound, it is six lanes wide from Steeles south to Sheppard.
At Steeles Avenue, the freeway enters the Regional Municipality of York. To the east are industrial units, while on the west are residential suburbs. This land-use persists north to the Highway 407 ETR interchange, a multi-level stack interchange with two flyovers. North of Highway 407, the freeway crosses Highway 7, where the HOV lanes transition to standard through lanes. The freeway passes west of Buttonville Airport and interchanges with 16th Avenue. It narrows and the central barrier ends; a grass median taking its place between the opposing lanes. The land-use density continues to drop, with the appearance of some open spaces and farms interspersed with industrial and commercial buildings. By 19th Avenue, just north of the Honda Canada headquarters in Markham, the land-use is agricultural on both sides of Highway 404. Immediately south of Stouffville Road, the freeway curves to the east before proceeding north.
North of Bethesda Road, the freeway crosses through a green space area. Two small lakes are present to either side. The larger, to the east, is Simeon Lake. North of Aurora Road, the highway reduces in width to four lanes, which is its configuration north to East Gwillimbury, where the highway terminates at Green Lane (York Regional Road 19).
Highway 404 History
A freeway east of Highway 11 was in the works as early as 1954, when the province extended Highway 48 south from Port Bolster. A large cloverleaf interchange was constructed with the Toronto Bypass, and plans formulated for a dual highway around the east side of Lake Simcoe, connecting with Highway 11 near Orillia or Gravenhurst. This route was dropped when Metropolitan Toronto began planning for the northern extension of the DVP in 1957, as subdivisions encroached uponWoodbine Avenue north of Highway 401. The six-lane expressway was to follow the alignment of Woodbine from its southern terminus at Lawrence Avenue to north of Steeles Avenue, where the Department of Highways (DOH) would continue the road as a "new King's Highway".
In 1959, the DOH announced that they would construct and maintain the new route once the DVP was completed to Highway 401 and designate it Highway 404. The proposed route of the freeway was presented at a special delegation on December 13, 1960 by Harold Barry, a representative of the department. Design work started in 1973, the first contract was awarded in early 1976, and construction began in March 1976 with the awarding of a C$6.9 million contract. This contract included construction of the Finch Avenue interchange, overpasses at McNicoll and Van Horne Avenues and 4.5 km (2.8 mi) of six-lane freeway between Sheppard and Steeles Avenues. Shortly thereafter, on April 20, Ernest Avenue and Van Horne Avenue were closed to traffic at Woodbine. The first section of Highway 404 between Highway 401 and Steeles Avenue opened in late 1977, including the flyover ramp from southbound Woodbine Avenue. The freeway was separated by a grass median with a steel beam acting as a barrier between the lanes. Construction north of Toronto proceeded quickly, with the contract for the section from Steeles to Highway 7 being awarded in 1976 and the section opening on November 10, 1978. The next extension, to Stouffville Road (then known as the Gormley Side Road), was opened ceremoniously on December 9, 1980 by minister James Snow; the segment north of Highway 7 was four lanes wide.
The section of Highway 404 north of Stouffville Road was the subject of considerable controversy when work began to clear the route on May 15, 1981 before the completion of an environmental assessment. The Ministry of Transportation and Communications was charged with violating the newly enacted Environmental Assessment Act, which it contested came into effect after construction of the Highway 404 extension had begun. Minister James Snow was charged with violating the act, and called upon to resign. The Minister did not resign, but paid a $3,500 fine. Despite the issues surrounding it, the extension between Stouffville Road and Bloomington Road was opened ceremoniously on the morning of August 10, 1982.
Construction on the segment north of Bloomington to Aurora Sideroad was already in progress by this point. It was opened to traffic in late September 1985. Construction on the 6.5 km (4.0 mi) section from Aurora Road to Davis Drive began in early 1986, and the section opened to traffic on October 24, 1989 at 8:30 am. This final segment cost $22.1 million, ending the continuous construction program undertaken since 1973 at a cost of $83.3 million.
Highway 404 Expansion
Studies and environmental into various extensions began almost immediately, while Highway 404 ended at Davis Drive; it would take over a decade for any northward progression to take place. In the interim period, work went into expanding the six lane freeway through Toronto and Markham. In early 1998, the MTO announced plans for two contracts to widen Highway 404 south of Highway 7. The first contract converted the grass median into an additional lane in each direction with a central barrier between them. High-mast lighting was also installed, replacing the unique luminaires used on the freeway. The second contract resulted in an additional lane in each direction on the outside of the existing freeway south of Steeles Avenue, making it ten lanes wide. The proposal to eventually convert the inner lanes into HOV lanes was announced at the same time. The next year, Highway 404 was widened to six lanes between Highway 7 and Major Mackenzie Drive.
On June 23, 1998 the Minister of Transportation, Tony Clement, made a formal agreement with the Region of York to expand the route through the region. The MTO formally announced this on August 28, 2000: a three contract project to widen and extend Highway 404. The first contract added an additional lane in each direction in the grass median from Major Mackenzie Drive to Bloomington Road. A second contract then extended those two lanes north to Aurora Sideroad. These two projects both began in the summer of 2001 and were completed in December. The third contract called for a four lane extension from Davis Drive to Green Lane and the reconstruction of Green Lane into a four-laned arterial road between Leslie Street and Woodbine Avenue. This contract began shortly after the announcement in September 2000. The extension was opened to traffic on February 8, 2002 at a ceremony attended by York North MPP Julia Munro and York Regional Chair Bill Fisch.
On June 19, 2003, Transportation Minister and Oak Ridges MPP Frank Klees opened a new interchange at Regional Road 73 (16th Avenue). Traffic was permitted onto the ramp following the ceremony, also attended by Thornhill MPP Tina Molinari.
One of the three original HOV lanes in Ontario opened on Highway 404 in late 2005; the other two were the lanes onHighway 403. In early 2004, construction began on a new ramp to westbound Highway 401, curving beneath the southbound lanes of Highway 404. On December 13, 2005, the southbound HOV lane was opened to traffic. Work on the northbound HOV lane began shortly thereafter, opening at 8:30 am on Monday, July 23, 2007.
The Future of Highway 404
On May 16, 2006 the MTO announced plans to extend Highway 404 by 15 kilometres from Green Lane to Ravenshoe Road at the south end of Keswick. The first contracts were awarded later that year for the construction of the northbound bridge over Green Lane, followed by two structures over Mount Albert Road, west of Woodbine Avenue, begun in late 2008 and completed in 2009.  As of April 2011, the extension has been cleared and graded. Completion was originally scheduled for December 15, 2012 with landscaping work to continue the following spring. However, due to on site problems, the completion date has been rescheduled to 2014.
Long term plans call for Highway 404 to be extended to Highway 12, between Sunderland and Beaverton. This extension would follow a new alignment to Port Bolster, east of which the freeway would incorporate the existing two lanes of Highway 48. The extension has drawn criticism from environmental groups who claim it will only serve to accelerate urban sprawl north of Toronto.