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The Queensway is a major controlled-access freeway running through Ottawamarker, Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, from Kanata in the west to Orléansmarker in the east. It is the primary east-west transportation artery in the Ottawa-Gatineaumarker area.

The Queensway incorporates the section of Highway 417 from Highway 7 just west of Kanata to the junction with Regional Road 174 (formerly Highway 17). It also includes Regional Road 174, which continues east to Orléans as a freeway. The Highway 417 section of the Queensway is owned and operated by the Province of Ontario, while Regional Road 174 is now operated by the City of Ottawa. The junction between Highway 417 and Regional Road 174 (417 Exit # 113), is known locally as "the Split". The Highway 417 section is part of the Trans-Canada Highway system.

Description

The Queensway extends from Kanata in the west, passing just south of downtown through central Ottawa to Orleans in the east. It has two major interchanges, one in the west with the recently built Highway 416 Veterans Memorial Highway connecting to Highway 401; and in the east, where the 417 to Montreal diverges to the south-east and the eastern section of the Queensway continues as Regional Road 174. In the core section it is eight lanes wide (4 lanes per direction), and is four lanes wide in the portion outside of the old City of Ottawa boundaries although locations there and elsewhere sometimes have an auxiliary lane.

It is elevated on a berm along some central portions of its route providing views of downtown and the Gatineau Hills to the north. This central section was constructed along a former Canadian National Railway railbed. Its route bisects central Ottawa, "inside" to the north including downtown and the Parliament Buildings; to the south, residential neighbourhoods including the Glebe.

Between Eagleson/March Rd. and Moodie Dr. in the west, and Blair Rd. and Place D'Orléans Dr. in the east, a bus-only shoulder is used by OCTranspo's Transitway rapid-transit network.

The posted speed limit on the entire Queensway is 100 km/h (62 mph), conforming to the standards of regular 400-Series Highways, although non-rush hour traffic generally moves closer to 120 km/h. During rush hour, traffic volumes from commuters travelling from the downtown to the suburbs reduce speeds to a crawl for most of its length in both directions. In particular, the junction between Highway 417 and Regional Road 174 (the Split) in the east is considered by many to be poorly designed, as the westbound 174 converges from 3 lanes into 1, leading to extensive morning traffic jams. The section immediately west of the junction with Highway 416 also becomes congested, as up to five lanes converge into two, leading to extensive afternoon traffic jams; at that point the Queensway has the highest volume of any 4-lane freeway in Ontario (although it is designed to accommodate future expansion in mind).

Several of the Queensway interchanges are homes to communities of groundhogs. Most Ottawa commuters are familiar with the rodents, which entertain drivers during the warmer months. The animals are particularly numerous at the Nicholas Street entrance ramp.

Designation confusion

There is some disagreement as to exactly what constitutes the Queensway at its easternmost point. Most contend that the Queensway does not include Highway 417 east of the Split, but rather includes Regional Road 174 east to Orléans instead, which is the basic alignment of the original Highway 17 connecting Ottawa and Montrealmarker and the alignment of most of Ottawa's eastern population (see before 1997 provincial downloading).

Some consider the Queensway to refer strictly to Highway 417, including the area of the 417 east (technically south) of the Split until it reaches Ottawa's city limits, since Highway 417 has been exclusively designated as part of the Trans-Canada Highway after provincial downloading in 1997.

A few actually include both highways when referring to the Queensway. Others claim the Queensway includes neither, ending at the Split entirely and Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) COMPASS Traffic cameras are only installed west of the Split.

This, along with poor signage leading up to the Split can lead to great confusion, for visitors and locals alike. (i.e. "Take the Queensway westbound (417), exit to the Queensway eastbound (174).")

Historical designation

Prior to downloading in 1997, when 417 and 17 east of the Split were both provincial, older maps showed that the Queensway included to the brief freeway segment of Highway 17 east of the Split. The Highway 17 section followed the original direction of the Queenway from the west. Highway 417 turns to the south/east. The handover to municipal authorities has complicated the designation, since the downloaded Highway 17 east of the split in its entirety included the short freeway section (now known as Regional Road 174). The old definition of Queensway now refers to a roadway that is part (mostly) provincial and part municipal, causing confusion.

The old Queensway east of the Split and the old Highway 17 east of Ottawa was also the old routing of the Trans-Canada Highway before provincial downloading. Since then, all the Trans-Canada shields have been moved to the parallel Highway 417.

History

Origins

Named after Her Majesty Elizabeth II, the central part of the Queensway was constructed in the 1950s and 1960s to replace the old Highway 17, which ran on city roads within the city limits. The new expressway alignment, which assumed the name Highway 17, is close to the route of the old highway that it bypassed and it connected to the conventional (two-lane rural road) Highway 17 at Montreal Road in the east and Richmond Road in the west. It first appeared in plans for the City as part of the Greber Plan of the National Capital Commission, and is connected to most of the 'parkway' roads of Ottawa.

The central segment was completed in 1966, in time for the increased traffic going to Expo '67 in Montreal. The completion of the new Ottawa Station railway station and the closure of the old Union Station enabled the completion of the Nicholas interchange in the fall of 1966 and joined together the eastern and western segments of the Queensway.

Since then the Queensway has been extended to the east to Trim Road in Cumberland. In the west it has been expanded to Moodie, Eagleson, and Highway 7 west of Stittsville. From that point onwards the name Queensway was never in common usage although Highway 417 was completed as four lanes to Arnprior.

The central parts of the Queensway have continued to be widened to 6 and even 8 lanes wide in a few small sections. Several "cloverleaf" interchanges have been re-designed and traffic lights on the cross streets installed, some of this was in conjunction with adding bus ramps at Woodroffe and Pinecrest. The Alta Vista interchange was modified and renamed Riverside.

The central section from Alta Vista/Riverside Drive to Richmond Road was built on the former CNR rail line alignment. Outlying portions were built on what was then mostly open space. The stretch from Blair Road to Orleans Montreal Road was built near the old Canadian Northern Railway alignment abandoned in the 1920s. Some of the roadbed and bridge piers are still visible near Green's Creek.

Starting in the 1970s, with the completion of the new 417 highway from St Laurent Boulevard towards Montreal, the name Queensway has been used less and less and most government signage indicating Queensway has been removed over the years and replaced with 417 signs. The Queensway term however still remains in common use by many businesses nearby and most residents and news services still tend to use the term Queensway rather than 417.

Expansion

The initial road was a four-lane freeway, with a grass median, similar to some rural sections of other 400-series highways. It was rebuilt and expanded by the Province during several stages of the 1980s and 1990s to the point where the entire original right-of-way is filled. By the 1980s, it was divided by a Jersey barrier and had the familiar provincial-style mercury truss lights and curved overhead signage similar to other 400-series highways. In the late 1990s, shorter conventional poles replaced the truss lights while newer sign gantries were installed, although the existing Jersey concrete median was retained instead of the newer "Ontario tall-wall" barrier.

Connections

Two new highways have been built to connect to the original Queensway.

The Province of Ontario built a new Highway 417 from Ottawa to the Quebec border near Montreal. This new freeway connects to the Queensway just east of St. Laurent Boulevard and to the west of Orleans. At that time in 1971, the Queensway from the split west became designated as part of Highway 417, while the section to the east was retained as Highway 17. The Ontario government 'downloaded' the maintenance of the eastern section in 1997, and the eastern section was designated Regional Road 174.

In the west, the provincial and federal governments built an upgrade/bypass for Highway 16 which ran south from Ottawa to Prescott to meet Highway 401. This new freeway, designated Highway 416, connects to the Queensway in Nepean.

Recent events

2003-2007 MTO Study

Starting in 2003, the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO), developed plans (through an Environmental Assessment process) for an extensive upgrade of the infrastructure of Highway 417 from Highway 7 (exit 145), easterly to Anderson Road (exit 104).

These expansion plans were resisted by several local community groups. Many of the preliminary plans of the MTO had been controversial, involving the expansion of lanes and off-ramps into residential areas.

In January 2007, the study was completed with recommendations to expand or rebuild sections of the highway. The entire length was recommended to be 8 lanes wide, and many interchanges will be rebuilt for safety and capacity reasons. In particular, one interchange at Parkdale Avenue will be rebuilt to close the off-ramp to Westmount Avenue. The recommendations were significantly scaled back from the beginning of the study process due to public opposition.

Island Park overpass

In August 2007, the Island Park Drive overpass was replaced using a new process novel to Ontario. Over a few months, a new replacement bridge was built nearby in Hampton Park. Once it was complete, the old overpass was removed by a special vehicle that lifted it called a Transporter and the new bridge dropped in place. The process was expected to be completed in one night, allowing traffic to resume using the highway the next morning. It ended up taking somewhat longer than expected, but was complete later in the same day.

Expansion Between Moodie Dr. and Eagleson Rd.

The Queensway was expanded to 4 lanes in each direction (8 lanes in total) between Moodie Dr. and Eagleson Rd., with the project being completed in 2009. One of the lanes on each side is reserved for HOV - high occupany vehicles. This expansion helped with the heavy rush-hour congestion, as well as traffic headed to events at Scotiabank Placemarker.

See also



References

  1. Island Park Bridge Replacement Animation Video

External links




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