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The Queen Elizabeth Way (locally referred to as the QEW, QE, or Queen-E) is a 400-Series freeway in Ontariomarker, Canadamarker. It links Buffalo, New Yorkmarker, USAmarker and the Niagara Peninsulamarker with Torontomarker and its western suburbs. The freeway starts at the Peace Bridgemarker in Fort Erie, Ontariomarker and continues for 139 kilometres (86 mi) through Niagara Fallsmarker, St. Catharinesmarker, Hamiltonmarker, Burlingtonmarker, Oakvillemarker and Mississaugamarker before ending at the junction of Highway 427 and the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto. The QEW is one of Ontario's busiest highways with close to 200,000 average trips per day.

Major highway junctions are located at Highway 420 in Niagara Falls, Highway 405 and Highway 406 in St. Catharines, Highway 403 and Highway 407 ETR in Burlington, Highway 403 in Oakville, and Highway 427 in Toronto. A section of QEW through Halton Regionmarker (exits 101 through 123) has been concurrently signed with Highway 403 since 2002.

The Queen Elizabeth Way originally started in 1931 as a divided-highway upgrade of the Middle Road between Highway 27 and Highway 10. At the time, the Middle Road was one of the first examples of a divided highway anywhere in North America, and it was the forerunner to the current superhighway. Various upgrades during the 1940s and 1950s brought the Queen Elizabeth Way up to modern freeway standards between Toronto and Hamilton, and later over its entire length.

Name and signage

The Queen Elizabeth Way was named for Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (later known as the Queen Mother), the Queen Consort of King George VI. In 1939 King George and Queen Elizabeth made a tour of Canada to celebrate his coronation and make themselves known to their Canadian subjects, and the highway received this name to commemorate the occasion.

The signs identifying the highway have always used blue lettering on a yellow background instead of the black-on-white scheme on Ontario's standard King's Highway signs. They originally showed the highway's full name only in small letters, with large script letters ER (for Elizabeth Regina, or Queen Elizabeth in Latin) where the highway number would go on other signs. In 1955 the lettering was changed to QEW. Trailblazer shields, indicating routes "to QEW," switch the colours to yellow on blue. Ontario’s only other 400-series highway to have had a unique provincial highway shield with letters instead of a number is Highway 401, which is designated concurrently as the Macdonald-Cartier Freeway. White-on-blue "M-C" shields used to be a common sight along the 401, but the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) has been phasing them out since the late 1990s.

Vintage light standards with the ER signature can be found in three sections of the QEW:

  • bridge over Credit River in Mississauga
  • bridge over Bronte Creek in Oakville
  • bridge over Twelve Mile Creek in St. Catharines

A short section of Higwhay 420 and Robert Street in Niagara Falls also has these light standards as both were once the terminus of the QEW before it was realigned to Fort Erie.

Because the highway curves sharply around the end of Lake Ontariomarker, its directions are not signed with compass points as usual on Canadian highways, but with destination cities. QEW Toronto is used consistently for the direction toward Toronto. In the other direction, the highway is signed QEW Hamilton from Toronto to Hamilton, QEW Niagara from Hamilton to Niagara Falls, and QEW Fort Erie from Niagara Falls to Fort Erie.

The QEW is not publicly referred to by any route number, but the MTO has referred to it as Highway 451 in annual reports.

Hamilton-Niagara section

The Queen Elizabeth Way originally ran from Toronto to the Rainbow Bridgemarker in Niagara Falls. In the 1950s, a second branch was constructed, starting from a traffic circle near Niagara Falls and extending south on the present route to Fort Eriemarker. The original route, now a spur, was still designated as part of the QEW until 1972, when it was reconstructed and redesignated as Highway 420.

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 Skywaymarker 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 at Hamilton Harbourmarker in 1958 (the Burlington Bay James N.marker Allan Skywaymarker) and the Welland Canalmarker in St. Catharines in 1963 (the Garden City Skywaymarker) to allow free movement of traffic without the need to stop for drawbridges; tolls on these bridges were eventually removed in 1973.

In 1975, the familiar traffic circle with Highway 20 (Centennial Parkway) in Stoney Creekmarker 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 Highway 403 (Burlington) was reconstructed with 8 lanes, a variable lighting system, state-of-the-art 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.

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

The QEW is also well known for its vintage highway architecture, which is slowly being replaced as the highway is upgraded through St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. An original 1936 rail overpass at Sandplant Hill in Niagara Falls was slowly removed in 2005 and 2006, and completely replaced in late 2006 (the process was gradual to maintain rail traffic). The 1937-vintage Martindale Road overpass in St. Catharines is due to be replaced in 2008.

Mississauga-Toronto section

The QEW was called the Middle Road from 1931 to 1939 as a highway connecting Hamilton with 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 in 1997, and became part of the Gardiner Expressway. A monumentmarker was originally located at the highway's Toronto terminus, dedicated to the 1939 visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and 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.

The late-1960s widening project coincided with the construction of the complex interchange with Highway 427 (formerly Highway 27) and resulted in an 8 to 10 lane QEW stretching to the Humber River, with a short collector-express system serving Kipling Avenue and Islington Avenue. 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.

The 427–Humber section 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 is currently (2009) being converted from a cloverleaf to a parclo A4 on the south side and a diamond on the north side.


Today, the QEW is a full four- to eight-lane freeway running through the heart of Ontario's Golden Horseshoe region. Construction is currently underway to widen the highway from four to six lanes through all of St. Catharinesmarker and Niagara Fallsmarker as well as a full eight to ten-lane widening though Halton Regionmarker. Due to increased traffic volumes and environmental issues throughout the Niagara Region, plans are underway to construct Mid-Peninsula Highway to bypass the QEW, running from Fort Eriemarker through Wellandmarker ending in Burlingtonmarker at Highway 407.


The Ministry's future plans are to add HOV or car pool lanes on the QEW/403 in the sections from Torontomarker to St. Catharinesmarker. The MTO is currently widening the stretch from Bronte Creekmarker and Sixteen Mile Creek in Oakvillemarker to prepare for future HOV lanes.[39860] HOV lanes will be constructed in both directions between 3rd Line and Burloak Drive, which will eventually be extended to Trafalgar Road in the east and to Guelph Line in the west. Completion date is currently undetermined. There are similar plans for the QEW between Red Hill Valley Parkway and Highway 406.

Volume information (2005)

  • Highest volume: 175,200 AADT from Dixie Road (Exit 136) to Evans Avenue (Exit 138)
  • Lowest volume: 17,900 AADT Concession Road (Exit 1) to Thompson Road (Exit 2)

Lane configurations from Fort Erie to Toronto

Section Travel Lanes
Peace Bridgemarker to Thompson Road 3-4 lanes in each direction
Thompson Road to McLeod Road (Niagara Road 49) 2 lanes in each direction
McLeod Road to Mountain Road (Niagara Road 101) 2 lanes in each direction
1 additional lane per direction currently under planning
Mountain Road to Niagara Street (Niagara Road 48)/Service Road 3 lanes in each direction
Niagara Street/Service Road to Highway 406 2 lanes in each direction
1 additional lane per direction currently under construction
Highway 406 to Red Hill Valley Parkway 3 lanes in each direction
1 HOV lane per direction currently under planning
Red Hill Valley Parkway to North Shore Boulevard/Eastport Drive 4 lanes in each direction
North Shore Boulevard/Eastport Drive to Queen Elizabeth Way/Highway 403 West/Highway 407 ETR Freeman Interchange 4 lanes in each direction
Through Queen Elizabeth Way/Highway 403 West Branch/Highway 407 ETR Freeman Interchange 2 lanes in each direction
Queen Elizabeth Way/Highway 403 West Branch/Highway 407 ETR Freeman Interchange to Guelph Line 3 lanes in each direction
Guelph Line to Trafalgar Road 3 lanes in each direction
1 HOV lane per direction currently under construction
Trafalgar Road to Highway 403 East Branch 4 lanes in each direction
1 HOV lane per direction currently under planning
Highway 403 East Branch East to Queen Elizabeth Way/Highway 427/Gardiner Expressway 3 lanes in each direction
1 HOV lane per direction currently under planning

Exit list

Exits are numbered from south (Fort Erie) to north (Toronto).
Location # Destinations Notes
Fort Eriemarker

1 Concession Road Northbound exit and southbound entrance; signed as exits 1A (north) and 1B (south)
2 Thompson Road south (RR 122)

Northbound exit and southbound entrance
2 Bertie Street, Thompson Road (RR 122) Southbound exit and northbound entrance
Niagara Fallsmarker
30 , Rainbow Bridgemarker to Niagara Falls, USAmarker Signed as exits 30A (Hwy 420) and 30B (RR 20) southbound
32 Signed as exits 32A (east) and 32B (west)
Niagara-on-the-Lakemarker 37 Southbound exit and northbound entrance
38 Signed as extis 38A (RR 89) and 38B (RR 55) southbound
Garden City Skywaymarker over the Welland Canalmarker
St. Catharinesmarker
48 Northbound exit and southbound entrance
Lincolnmarker 55
Grimsbymarker 68
Hamiltonmarker 78
89 Red Hill Valley Parkway Niagara Bound QEW - SB Red Hill Valley Parkway Ramp Under Construction and expected to be opened in Late 2008
89 Burlington Street
90 Woodward Avenue Southbound exit and northbound entrance
93 Eastport Drive Northbound exit and southbound entrance
Burlington Skywaymarker over Burlington Baymarker
97 North Shore Boulevard, Eastport Drive Former Hwy 2
99 Plains Road, Fairview Street Northbound exit and southbound entrance
100 Northbound exit and southbound entrance
100 , Hamilton International Airportmarker South end of Hwy 403 overlap; southbound exit and northbound entrance
101 Southbound exit and northbound entrance
105 Walkers Line
109 Burloak Drive (RR 21)
110 Service Road Southbound exit only (This exit and overpass bridge was removed in 2008 to accommodate widening of the QEW)
113 3rd Line
116 Dorval Drive (RR 17)
117 Kerr Street Southbound exit only
119 Royal Windsor Drive Northbound exit and southbound entrance
123 Ford Drive (RR 13) Northbound exit is part of the Hwy 403 exit
Torontomarker North end of Hwy 403 overlap; northbound exit and southbound entrance
130 Mississauga Road
132 Hurontario Street Former Hwy 10. Under construction until November 2009.
136 Southbound exit and northbound entrance
Torontomarker 138 Evans Avenue, West Mall, Brown's Line Northbound exit and southbound entrance
139 Pearson Airportmarker Northbound exit and southbound entrance
Gardiner Expressway - Torontomarker Eastbound exit and westbound entrance

See also


  1. Stamp, Robert M.: QEW, page 12.
  2. Old QEW Route Marker
  3. Annual report of the Department of Highways, Ontario, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1964, p. 98: refers to the Garden City Skyway and Niagara Street interchange projects as being on Highway "451 Q.E.W."

External links

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